Fitting that Bad Religion’s website does not have a “history” or “about us” page – instead there is a Legacy page chronicling 30 years of the band’s activities. The founder of Epitaph records, Brett Gurewitz, his bandmates Jay Bentley and Greg Graffin, have been a part of the band since forming in the early 1980’s and they still tour together to this day. With poetic and relevant lyrics, Bad Religion’s catalogue is impressive – an intelligent and thought-provoking running commentary about western society. Beyond providing us with an ongoing legacy of punk rock lyrics that are smart and meaningful – Bad Religion songs demonstrate a mastery of encapsulating important messages succinctly. The songwriting team of Gurewitz and Graffin also encourage us to expand our vocabularies – proving they are true intellectuals by incorporating appropriate (but sometimes lesser-known) words from the English lexicon into many of their songs.
Diving into the Bad Religion discography is almost like sitting in the back of the coolest lecture hall on the planet, where social, economic and political messages are delivered with rapid guitar playing and powerful vocal harmonies. In 1992 at a time when punk rock was experiencing a lot of attention due to the popularity of skateboarding videos and the proverbial Nirvana/Grunge gateway (which led to an explosion of alternative rock choices in popular music that included commercial successes for Bad Religion’s peers Green Day and The Offspring) – Bad Religion released Generator; and from this album a song entitled No Direction. In this song Greg sings: “I don’t believe in self-important folks who preach, no Bad Religion song can make your life complete” – true Greg, maybe our lives won’t be complete, but definitely improved.
Here are 10 examples proving that regardless of the issue, Bad Religion lyrics said it best:
- “The masses of humanity have always had to suffer” and “The businessman whose master plan controls the world each day is blind to indications of his species’ slow decay” Song: Suffer, Album: Suffer (1988)
- “It’s never really what you own but what you threw away – and how much did you pay” and “The Arid Torpor of Inaction Will Be Our Demise” Song: Kyoto Now, Album: The Process of Belief (2002)
- “When I look back and think, when I ponder and ask “why?” – I see my ancestors spend with careless abandon, assuming eternal supply” Song: Modern Man, Album: Against The Grain (1990)
- “Hey man of science with your perfect rules of measure, can you improve this place with the data that you gather? Hey Mother Mercy can your loins bear fruit forever? Is your fecundity a trammel or a treasure?” and “Hey moral soldier you’ve got righteous proclamation, and precious tomes to fuel your pulpy conflagrations.” Song: I Want To Conquer The World, Album: No Control (1989)
- “There’s a prophet on a mountain and he’s making up dinner with long division and writing crop – anybody can feel like a winner when it’s served up piping hot” and “There’s an urgent need to feed – declining pride” Song: Let Them Eat War, Album: The Empire Strikes First (2004)
- “Look around and ask someone if you are alive, you’re a sidewalk cipher speaking prionic jive” Song: Give You Nothing, Album: Suffer (1988)
- “Consciousness has plagued us and we cannot shake it, though we think we’re in control” and “History and future are the comforts of our curiosity but here we are, rooted in the present day… questions that besiege us in life are testament of our helplessness.” Song: No Control, Album: No Control (1989)
- “Hey do what you want, but don’t do it around me. Idleness and dissipation breed apathy.” and “My moniker is man and I’m rotten to the core. I’ll tear down the building just to pass through the door.” Song: Do What You Want, Album: Suffer (1988)
- “The process of belief is an elixir when you’re weak, I must confess, at times I indulge it on the sneak but generally my outlook’s not so bleak (and I’m not meek!)” Song: Materialist, Album: The Process of Belief (2002)
- “All good soldiers wait like warheads – when the fighting starts who will be accountable, a cannibal, a cannonball” Song: All Good Soldiers, Album: Recipe For Hate (1993)
Want more Bad Religion? Check out my playlist of BR favourites on YouTube – click here.