Review : Bad Religion - The Dissent of Man
AbsolutepunkGreg Graffin is a smart guy. Almost too smart. Half the time, I don't know what he's talking about in his songs, although I do know it's something super intelligent and over my head. But that's fine. I can live with this inferiority complex, because when it comes to his work in Bad Religion, it's all so uniform and tight... it simply makes me feel, well, good.
Obviously I'm not a college professor nor a Cornell grad, so pardon my lack of flair. Really, the point is how smart a band like Bad Religion is, despite how casual listeners may find them to be, say, too comfortable after 30 years. Truth is, comfort is synonymous with reliability - and reliability is synonymous with adeptness. Groundbreaking? Hardly. But after this long, on your 15th full-length? There's no need to be. You can address separate issues one at a time and continue to build off what got your to album number 15 by easing into new paradigms of sound and style.
The Dissent of Man is not a celebration in angst but a melding of the ideas that have shaped our independence. Some may see this as a bit of a shift, at least in tempo, but a progression in lyrical context. Yes, this is Graffin still buttering a thick layer of anthemic pride and urging listeners to fight back without casting stones - but the album's greatest success is how it shoulders pessimism next to establishing one's own rights to fight the upheavel.
"Those were the days my friend / But I’m not talking about that at all," he sings out on thundrous opening number "The Day The Earth Stalled." With a theme of science over politics/religion, the band settles on negotiating a swift balance of distorted riffs alongside mid-tempo soldiering that shows off the relationship between Brett Gurewitz and Graffin. Using more of a folktale songwriting style, Graffin has a poetic charge to his delivery whereas Gurewitz is able to focus more on swimming in a more freelaced environment that suits his playing style. "Only Rain" and "The Devil In Stitches" keep the trademarked Bad Religion moments, but also add in a folk/country element that could not be a better tool for emphasizing the importance of Graffin's songwriting abilities (listen to the hook in "Devil" for further evidence)....full text
StereoboardAfter 30 years of recording, touring and inspiring almost every other punk rock band on the planet, the granddaddies of melodic punk return with their fifteenth album ‘The Dissent of Man’. Although the LA-based group have suffered a number of line-up changes over the years, this is now their fourth consecutive album as a six-piece with original guitarist and songwriter Brett Gurewitz.
One of the great things about Bad Religion compared with other punk rock groups is that, while others have either stuck with a straightforward punk sound or completely redefined themselves with a new and “intelligent” direction, BR have consistently chosen to stay true to themselves. This may be the case with ‘The Dissent of Man’, but that isn’t to accuse them of continually recycling the same old style. Far from it. What they manage to achieve is to subtly but effectively mature and develop their music while hanging onto their identity as the Bad Religion that fans know and love. From the first listen, it is clear to see how they have succeeded in doing this again on ‘The Dissent of Man’.
The album gets off to a flying start with the typically short-but-sweet BR punk style on ‘The Day That The Earth Stalled’ – an 87-second moshpit-inciting track, complete with Brooks Wackerman’s breakneck drumming and Bad Religion’s trademark “oozin’ aahs” backing vocals. This is followed by the guitar solo-infused punk rock of ‘Only Rain’, which reminds us of how BR were one of the first bands to step out from the amateurish world of punk to embrace the more skilled and showy arena of heavy rock.
Elsewhere on ‘The Dissent of Man’, Bad Religion take the pace of the songs down to more of a steady rock tempo, which occasionally sees them dip into a number of different genres. As on some of their other recent releases, such as 2002’s ‘The Process of Belief’ and 2004’s ‘The Empire Strikes First’, the band display an even greater use of melody than they did during their earlier years. At times, they could almost be described as bordering on a pop-influenced style, yet manage to steer clear of anything that could be accused of sounding cheesy. Frontman Greg Graffin utilises his powerfully tuneful vocal chords here more than ever, continuing the tradition of proving himself as one of the true actual singers in punk rock....full text
SoundthesirensIn an interview prior to the release of The Dissent of Man, Brett Gurewitz had referenced Tom Petty and The Kinks as influential outlets for the album’s songwriting. It was a disarming statement at first, but why can’t a Bad Religion album sound a little like something Ray Davies would have written? Yet as The Dissent of Man unfolds, it is clear that it is still a distinctively Bad Religion album- compact melodies, sharp guitars and Brooks Wackerman’s great percussion work- but there are many instances where they venture out into the kind of ambition unseen since Into the Unknown.
It isn’t a grating, blatantly abstract form of musical diversity- they’ve exercised these textures with certain restraint. Most evident perhaps, in the closing “I Won’t Say It Again”, an acoustic driven, soft rock-tinged tune that will play closer to Tom Petty and Ray Davies than Greg Ginn and Steve Soto. But the song’s diversion from the regular Bad Religion sound is still in line with the album’s bigger thematic nuances- so it doesn’t feel out of place. Mid tempo tracks “Won’t Somebody” and the title track are from the same book as “The Answer” and “Honest Goodbye” while “The Pride And the Pallor” is a great example of forward thinking songwriting blended perfectly with accessible rock aesthetics and their trademark lyrical attack.
Where The Dissent of Man really tests the waters are with its two (yes, two) love-themed tracks, and as alarming as it is to know that Bad Religion have written a love song, it is less so once you hear it. Lyrically, it’s a mix of cheese and embittered lovelorn couplets in “Cyanide”; “Let me say / (Oh oh) well there’s no place left to hide / (Oh oh) from the loneliness inside”, complemented well by the song’s country-punk flavoured sound. “Turn Your Back On Me” is equally pessimistic....full text
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