The Dissent of Man
Nov 10, 2010 Web Exclusive
It's difficult to overemphasize the significance of Bad Religion's recent 30-year anniversary. Punk rock is, generally speaking, a young man's game, and Bad Religion has been at it well past what one may have assumed was its sell-by date. The surprising thing in it all, however, is how consistently the band has managed to create solid and worthwhile records, somehow never becoming a parody of itself despite marriages, children, professorial status, balding, and general old age. The band's 15th album continues the trend, opening with the brutal 90-second slash of "The Day That The Earth Stalled," and continues unabated through 14 more tracks of piss, vinegar, and blistering guitar.
Echoes of the pounding, riff-driven Recipe for Hate, a mid-career high water mark, are heard throughout the album's first half, while songs still manage to retain both the pop-rock tunefulness of the Todd Rundgren-produced The New America and the urgency and speed-demon/over-in-a-minute sonic ethos of such early classics as No Control. What this all amounts to is the fact that, in most relatable terms, The Dissent of Man sounds very much like Bad Religion, with all the good and bad that the characterization entails. However, certain flashes of brilliance above the norm are present, and a few twists and turns, when they catch the ear, are pleasant reminders that Bad Religion still has room for growth.
Lyrically, "Pride and The Pallor" is one of the band's most incisive social commentaries about family and the subtle abuse and control that destroys, wrapped up in a narrative that eschews the preachy and appeals to both the head and the heart. Sonically, a couple change-ups are worth noting: the almost classic rock-esque solo on "Won't Somebody" and, wait, is that a slide guitar on "Cyanide?" From here on in, tracks 11 through 15, The Dissent of Man loosens up and shows glimmers of what Bad Religion could become if Greg Graffin, Brett Gurewitz, et al. truly let themselves go. Immediately following "Cyanide" is "Turn Your Back on Me," a power pop tune so different from typical Bad Religion in form and function that it might as well have been performed by Matthew Sweet. "Ad Hominem" boasts a pop chorus that embraces its inner arena-rock. And "I Won't Say Anything," the album's closer, retains the recognizable BR vocal phrasing and rhythms while almost completely abandoning the bludgeoning repetitive riff-driven punk backing for tamer, more melodic and lyrical instrumental accent. Of course, this is still the same Bad Religion you know and love. But what the final quarter of The Dissent of Man shows is the range of a band that, three decades in, needs no longer be tied to the punk rock status quo. Spread this over an entire album, and Bad Religion could be one kick-ass power pop band. Reinvention 30 years on. Now wouldn't that be punk? (www.badreligion.com)
Author rating: 6/10
Average reader rating: 7/10