It’s no stretch of the definition to anoint Brett Gurewitz and Greg Graffin as godfathers of the American Punk movement. The Ramones certainly softened the ground for the genre, but they were singing about Carbona and Rock & Roll high schools and Punk Rock girls. By the time the boys in Bad Religion absorbed the musical tenets of Punk (with The Sex Pistols and Black Flag as their philosophical beacons), they were ready to populate their brutally fast and loud songs with their lyrical outrage over the cultural and political ills of the infinitely protestable ’80s. In doing so, Bad Religion established the predominant template for the majority of domestic Punk to follow: double-clutched rockabilly drumming, blistering guitars and gravel-throated anthems of political dissatisfaction and social alienation.
The trick for Bad Religion has been to sustain that level of sonic energy and activist passion across three decades, maintaining their integrity, relevance and every-other-year release schedule while growing, maturing and holding the interest of their aging fan base and attracting the youth that comprised their original audience.
Amazingly, Bad Religion has done exactly that since their 1981 debut, a string that continues with their 15th album, The Dissent of Man, perhaps the most diverse and broadly appealing album in the band’s catalog. After a succession of recent releases that toed the Bad Religion party line, Dissent finds the band breaking out of their accepted role and incorporating more classic Rock and Pop elements to their songwriting (“Where the Fun Is,” “The Devil in Stitches,” “Pride and the Pallor,” the Punk/Country twang of “Cyanide,” the Pop melodicism of “I Won’t Say Anything”) while applying that diversity to their sturdy structural Punk core and sense of moral outrage (the anthemic “Someone to Believe,” the scathing social/political rant of “Ad Hominem,” “The Resist Stance” and “Meeting of the Minds”).
As a result, The Dissent of Man is the perfect adult Punk album for the 21st century: visceral, loud and confrontational as well as thoughtful, nuanced and universally appealing.