Remember Bad Religion? The Southern California band that formed in the late '70s, and spent their three-decade strong career layering pointed lyrics over fast-paced riffs and hard-edged melodies? Their discography’s lyrical content runs the gamut of sociopolitical matters of relevance, like a 30-year chronicle of everything wrong with the world. Now they’re coming to Portland on Monday (March 23), a little older but still ready to hold forth. As a pre-show primer, here are five reasons Bad Religion’s lyrical output is still relevant today.
1. on War. . .
“The final page is written in the books of history,
As man unleashed his deadly bombs and sent troops overseas
To fight a war which can't be won and kills the human race,
A show of greed and ignorance, man's quest for dominance.”
“Part III,” from 1982’s How Could Hell Be Any Worse?
“Part III” was released in the early 1980s, during Reagan’s first term as President. Since then there’s been Iraq, Afghanistan . . . need we say more?
2. on Technology. . .
“Cause I'm a 21st century digital boy
I don't know how to live but I've got a lot of toys
My daddy's a lazy middle class intellectual
My mommy's on valium, so ineffectual
Ain't life a mystery?”
“21st Century (Digital Boy)” from 1990’s Against the Grain
Probably even more applicable now than in the '90s when it was released, “21st Century (Digital Boy)” calls to the distraction of electronics (and other seemingly unnecessary toys) and how tough it is to live life away from a screen. Back then, it was Super Mario Brothers. Now, it’s whatever Apple wants it to be.
3. on politics. . .
“Countries manufacture bombs and guns
To kill your brother, something that he hasn't even done
Smog is ruining my lungs but they aren't sorry they've done wrong
They hide behind their lies that they're helping everyone.”
“Fuck Armageddon…This is Hell” from 1995’s All Ages
The arms trade, the environment—it's not like such things are on the upswing these days. But the basic premise—that we’re being lied to by those in power—also still holds. Weapons of mass destruction, anyone?
4. on media …
“This is not a test
Of the emergency broadcast system
Where Malibu fires and radio towers
Conspire to dance again
And I cannot believe the media Mecca
They're only trying to peddle reality,
Catch it on prime time, story at nine
The whole world is going insane”
“Los Angeles is Burning,” from 2004’s The Empire Strikes First
Here Bad Religion points the finger at sectors of the media prone to exaggeration, and those that sensationalize information for vanity or a quick buck. We’re looking at you, Brian Williams.
5. On the relevance of punk songs…
"You might not think it matters now but what if you are wrong
You might not think there's any wisdom in a fucked up punk rock song
But the way it is cannot persist for long
A brutal sun is rising on our sick horizon."
"Kyoto Now", from 2002's The Process of Belief
Meta moment: It's Bad Religion on the relevance of, er, Bad Religion. This is a song about impending environmental catastrophe, but it could be about anything. Choose your own adventure, but be assured, Bad Religion is probably right in its prediction that, whatever it is, it cannot persist for long.
Bad Religion plays the Roseland Theatre on March 23.