Pardon the Aggravation: Scene Music Junkies Square off on Bad Religion:

Bad Religion visits the Agora Ballroom (5000 Euclid Ave., 216-881-6911) Thursday, October 11. The band’s been in business since 1980, but the run hasn’t been all wine and roses. Some say Bad Religion is one of the best punk bands ever. Some say it’s the worst. The group came together in the original Los Angeles hardcore scene, but never broke out of the junior varsity, opening up for bands like the Circle Jerks. Filled with epic keyboard jams, the band’s acid-damaged second LP, Into The Unknown, destroyed their momentum and sapped what little credibility they had in the old-school scene. The band would recover, and once the era’s big-dog hardcore bands broke up, Bad Religion issued a well-received series of releases on its own Epitaph label -- then just a little indie run by guitarist Brett Gurewitz, now a major force in the industry, home to a diverse roster including Tom Waits, Neko Case, Sage Francis, and some mall-punk emo puds. In the meantime, Bad Religion survived punk’s various waxing and wanings. By the 90s, they were respected elder statesmen. As alternative music broke large, they even spent a stint on major-label Atlantic -- once home to Led Zeppelin -- where they issued singles like year’s “21st Century (Digital Boy)” and “A Walk.” The latter track can alternately viewed as an incendiary political allegory (with lyrics like “And who the hell are you… you probably can’t tie your own pair of shoes”) or a thinly veiled reference to masturbation (with lyrics like “I’m gonna use my hands / And I’m gonna use my mind”). High school kids were endlessly impressed with the band’s big vocabulary (vocalist Greg Graffin has a Ph.D in Biology and teaches at UCLA), and by the century’s end, the band was iconic to the generation that had made the Warped Tour big business. ....
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