Album Review: Bad Religion – “The Dissent Of Man”

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Throughout every listen that I’ve given Bad Religion’s new album The Dissent Of Man, I’ve come to realize something and it’s hit me like a “fucking atom bomb.” This album is not like other Bad Religion albums, but at the same time it is quintessential Bad Religion. It feels “un-Bad Religion.” I consider “The Dissent Of Man” to be one of the best, if not the best, records that the band has released. But what I mean about it being un-Bad Religion is that the band’s latest endeavor encapsulates everything that Bad Religion is about, in a way that no other album before it has done. Gone are the angry lyrics that have defined a way of life for many punks and in are the lyrics that state, “finally there’s someone to believe, and now you have a purpose to perceive.” Don’t get me wrong, being un-Bad Religion is not a bad thing, but rather a testament to how this band has managed to keep putting out albums throughout all these years, and still be as influential to every band that has been started up after 1980. From this point forward, Bad Religion stand as a beacon of a progressive, positive way of thinking within the scene and it begins with their surprisingly upbeat, “The Dissent Of Man.”

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 30 years and you’re not familiar with who Bad Religion are, they’re a six-piece, sometimes five-piece band from from Los Angeles, California. Not only are they one of the most influential bands in punk rock music, they were credited with reviving the punk scene in the late 1980’s with three albums that fans affectionately, and ironically (given the band’s name) call, “The Holy Trinity,” consisting of “Suffer,” “No Control,” and “Against The Grain.” This year is the band’s 30 anniversary and has seem them release a live album that was made available as a free download, as well as “The Dissent Of Man,” the band’s 15th full-length studio album.

Clocking in at 40:51, the album is comprised of 15 tracks on the standard release with 5 extra tracks available on the “Deluxe Digital Download” edition. On some songs, the album has a few Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers-sounding moments (this time Bad Religion playing the role of the “influenced”), Tom Petty ‘s Mike Campbell even makes an appearance on “Cyanide,” but the album is still filled with fast drums, melodic guitars, and the “oozin’-ah’s” that have become characteristic of the band’s work. With the exception of “Finite,” a track written by Dr. Greg Graffin, full time punk rocker/part time UCLA gradute professor, whom has once again split up writing half of the album with Guitarist, and Epitaph Records owner/CEO Brett Gurewitz, the other four songs on the Deluxe are live versions of older, fan favorites consisting of “Best For you,” “Pessimistic Lines,” “How Much Is Enough,” and “Generator.”

There are a handful of standout tracks amongst this excellent album. The first half of the album is completely different from the second half. In terms of lyrical content, the album is extremely consistent but musically, the second half of the record is slower, more “rock”-sounding, as opposed to being faster and more “punk.” There are a couple of songs I want to focus on that, in my opinion, tie in and encompass what this album is all about.

Starting with the song “Only Rain,” the song is very melancholic in content, yet is somewhat high tempo. While many people have written that this song is one of the most “anti-Christianity songs the band has ever produced,” I’ll take a different route and say this is the most accepting, reflective, and honest songs that the band has ever produced. Taking a page from Dr. Graffin’s hate of the word “Atheist” (from his book with Is Belief In God Good, Bad Or Irrelevant, co-authored with Preston Jones), the song is stating that it’s fine and acceptable if you’re religious and want to justify your life’s purpose by being devout, but that science may also have an answer. That is highlighted by the lyric “well I know what’s wrong and I know what’s right. And I know that evil exists sure as day turns into night. When a man gets down on his knees to pray you know he’ll find what he is able, but chances are he’ll find it either way.” The sentiments expressed in the bridge of the song that say “oh lord have mercy on a humble man lost in the wilderness without a guiding hand” sum up the rest of the album.

A couple of tracks in, “Meeting Of The Minds” goes back in history and retraces various “meeting of the minds” in which a certain ideology, in the case of the first verse talking about the church attempting to attain consensus, and the second verse dealing with the teaching of evolution in schools, were challenged. Dr. Graffin belts “We all need some kind of creed to lead us to light,” once again keeping the concept of the album aligned with the lyrical content. The album ends on a tracked called “I Won’t Say Anything,” and it’s another example the chorus being a direct response to one of the 3 scenarios that takes place before it, in each verse. “Hey, I can’t deny it, but I won’t say anything unless you ask it right,” is the perfect way to end the album. It’s the perfect example of how subtle the band is on this album, yet it’s the song that’s the gives a resounding declaration that the band is taking a new direction and that they’ll be around for a little while longer.

As always, the band’s strong suit is their ability to write quality music, with intelligent lyrics that anyone can relate to, even if sometimes you do need a dictionary and/or thesaurus.  There have been many that have taken their music to heart and for a lot of punks, defined how they’ve lived their lives. Although throughout the band’s early years, they’ve written “I don’t believe in self-important folks who preach no Bad Religion song can make your life complete. Prepare for rejection, you’ll get no direction from me,” I believe that the band has taken a different approach as they’ve gotten older and have given fans another viewpoint that can, in turn, complete them in a way that anyone ever thought possible. With the band continuing to mature with each effort, this new un-Bad Religion is possibly the best Bad Religion to have ever existed. With that said, this album is a must have for any Bad Religion fan and will go down as one of the best in the band’s history.

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