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Grayer, wiser, angrier: Bad Religion rocks harder than ever

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Bad Religion. Photograph by Lisa Johnson Rock Photographer. - http://www.lisajohnsonphoto.com - PHOTOGRAPH BY LISA JOHNSON ROCK
  • Photograph by Lisa Johnson Rock
  • Bad Religion. Photograph by Lisa Johnson Rock Photographer. http://www.lisajohnsonphoto.com

Though they are a bit grayer and the lines on their faces a bit deeper, members of Bad Religion are just as likely to tell you to piss off now as they were as teenagers.

That’s because the band, wiser and worn, still despises ignorance and wears its disdain for hypocrisy like it did when it started the band 35 years ago (it just might not still wear the leather jackets). The band's music serves as an extension of that ideology, albeit a melodic and distorted extension.

In its early days, Bad Religion aspired to gain the respect of bands like Social Distortion, Black Flag and Circle Jerks. It's since surpassed most of its peers in longevity and album sales and garnered as much respect in the music genre with which it is associated: punk rock, a genre still ripe with an in-your-face attitude and defiance of the world at large. Something Bad Religion has fomented along the way.

“In all honesty, getting older has made it worse. Young snotty punks yelling about human failings gave way to a middle aged, more introspective and compassionate individuals who tried to understand the futility of human endeavor,” bassist Jay Bentley said via a phone interview with Oklahoma Gazette. “Which eventually gave way to snotty old punks who realizes people fail because they are ignorant or unwilling to step back and assess their own beliefs.”
Singing about social issues, politics, evolution and everything in between, Bad Religion's songs are lyrically an exercise in dictionary and thesauri page-turning (Greg Graffin, vocalist, has a Ph.D. from Cornell University and has written books on evolution), but its music is nothing short of knife-quick rock with plenty of melodic oohs and ahhs thrown in for good measure. It isn’t simple music; bandmates eschew simplicity as quickly as they shun stupidity, and it shows in each of their 17 albums and the 300-plus songs of their catalog.

“There’s still an amount of angst and anger at the world in general,” Bentley said. “Every day you wake up and you read some shitty thing that some person did and you’re like ‘Really? Still?’”

This is what drives the urgency behind the music of Bad Religion, Bentley said. It is an urgency that has persisted throughout the band's 35 years, and it is an urgency that can be experienced in its live shows.

“I think we sound the best when it’s just about to implode. If we’re playing at a speed where it’s like any faster than this and the song will no longer be a song,” Bentley said.

Today, the Southern California band has been playing for longer than many of their fans have been alive. Now those fans, their parents, or their parent’s friends who are fans, can catch them live Wednesday, April 1, at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa.

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