Nearly 40 years into their career, Bad Religion are the best west-coast punk band in existence | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Nearly 40 years into their career, Bad Religion are the best west-coast punk band in existence 

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click to enlarge Bad Religion

Bad Religion

Courtesy of Epitaph Records

The first time I saw Bad Religion, I was a young teen and they were on their 2000 tour in support of their Todd Rundgren-produced 11th album, The New America. I remember marveling at how dudes so old were still ripping so hard, but I recently had a weird crisis when I did the math and realized that lead singer Greg Graffin was only in his mid-30s at the time, a mere two years older than I am now. This put my perception of my own aging under a microscope, but more than that, it raised the point that Bad Religion, formed in 1980, have been elder statesmen of west-coast melodic skate punk for longer than I’ve been alive—and as of today, they still do it better than younger copycats. Formed by high school friends—Graffin, bassist Jay Bentley, and guitarist Brett Gurewitz—over the decades the band has picked up former members of the Circle Jerks, Minor Threat, Suicidal Tendencies, and the Cult, becoming something of a retirement camp for veterans of classic punk acts in the process. This year they released their 17th studio album, Age of Unreason, and it’s exactly what you’d want and expect from a Bad Religion record: breakneck rhythms, slick Adolescents-inspired vocal harmonies, thesaurus-combing lyrics, and endless massive hooks. Last year I caught Bad Religion at Riot Fest, performing a set of hits before delving into a full-album performance of their signature 1988 masterpiece, Suffer. At the time they were in their 50s, and once again they laid waste to musicians half their age. It almost feels like Bad Religion will be around forever—and that’s fine, because they’ll be great until their final show.   v

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