Punk As They Want To Be

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

One of LA’s original punk bands visits the Catalyst Club in Santa Cruz this coming Wednesday.  Bad Religion is a band that has spent the past twenty-plus years keeping the spirit of punk rock alive, while at the same time developing and refining their sound.  Bad Religion has managed to do what all bands dream about doing; maintaining the original fans while at the same time reaching out with something relevant for today’s concert-going youth.  Don’t be surprised, therefore, to see an all-ages crowd rocking out at the Catalyst show.

Bad Religion began life as a true garage band. Three bored San Fernando Valley teenagers, Greg Graffin, Brett Gurewitz and Jay Bentley, began practicing their music in a small garage.  Soon they began to play live in the clubs of the LA punk scene.  Their high-energy music, vocal harmonies and lyrics full of social commentary quickly got the band noticed, but at the time the major record companies were refusing to sign punk bands.  Undeterred, Gurewitz decided that the band should start its own label, and so Epitaph Records was born.  An eponymous EP was released and quickly followed by a full-length album entitled “How Could Hell Be Any Worse?”  Many fans consider this album to be a milestone of American punk music.

In 1986, Gurewitz left Bad Religion to open his own recording studio in Hollywood called Westbeach.  He rejoined the band a year later after being asked to fill in for their regular guitarist, and shortly afterwards Bad Religion recorded the album “Suffer,” which was won much critical acclaim.  “Suffer” is credited with revitalizing the punk scene, and many of the newer punk bands cited Bad Religion as a major influence on their sound.

Bad Religion released several more albums on Epitaph before moving to Atlantic Records in 1993.  A year later, Gurewitz left the band once more due to a growth in Epitaph’s business thanks to the resurgence of punk’s popularity.  The band recruited Brian Baker, formerly of Minor Threat, and carried on recording and touring.  Bad Religion continued with this line up for a number of years; meanwhile Gurewitz fought, and won, a severe battle with drug addiction whilst continuing his work with Epitaph.  Then, in 1999, the band asked Gurewitz to rejoin.  He agreed, and in turn asked Bad Religion to return to Epitaph for their next album.

The result was 2002’s “The Process of Belief,” an appropriate title for an album which sees the band on top form. Songs such as “Supersonic,” which challenges the increasingly disposable nature of today’s pop culture, show that Bad Religion’s writing is as sharp as ever.  The driving beats, buzz-saw guitars and vocal harmonies are all there, and sound as fresh as they did 20 years ago.  Go see Bad Religion this Wednesday and witness some of the masters of punk rock at work.

First published in “411”, The Salinas Californian, April 24, 2003

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