After 30 years, most people have learned what to expect out of Bad Religion – fast, melodic punk rock hard enough to maintain the old school punk fans and catchy enough to bring new pop punk fans into the loop.
With their new album The Dissent of Man there are slight signs of age and change creeping into BR’s sound, but all for the better. Those familiar with the band may have listened to Greg Graffin’s solo folk albums, his most recent being Cold as Clay. One of the strongest voices in the punk scene, Graffin is able to transition from punk to folk and even country seamlessly, and the influences of the latter occasionally creep into his punk tunes. These influences are also in the guitar work, where sped up country twang mixes with power chords, most notably in first single “The Devil in Stitches”, a punk-western romp.
BR get an assist from the Heartbreaker’s Mike Campbell on “Cyanide”, an excellent follow-up to their 90s hit “Infected”, as Graffin proclaims “…missing you is like kissing cyanide”. It’s a stand-out track, but not nearly as catchy as “Wrong Way Kids”, the best song on the album. The “Whoa-oooo” chorus adds an emotional heft to the lyrics of kids trying to find their way.
“The Day the Earth Stalled” and “The Resist Stance” are not very inspired compared to some of these other tracks, but people don’t listen to Bad Religion for innovation. Unlike their earlier album The Empire Strikes First, there is no lyrical theme holding The Dissent of Man together. It allows for Graffin to explore more personal themes (see “Avalon”), though with his thesaurus-like lyrics, you still may not understand if the song’s personal or political.