Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bad Religion - The Dissent of Man

I doubt many of you will be interested in my incredibly long review of Bad Religion's millionth album, "The Dissent of Man." So I'll save you a bit of time.

The band changes up their style a little bit. When it works, it really works. I'd recommend checking out these tunes:

Only Rain

However, much of the album falls short.

Okay, let's do this thing.

Bad Religion took a risk. Once. The year was 1983. After the brilliantly scathing debut, "How Could Hell Be Any Worse?" the band of teenage punks tried something different -- they put out an EP called "Into the Unknown." With all of its keyboards and reverb, the EP sounds like Bad Religion trying to score a "Tron" sequel. The detour was short lived. By 1985, they were back to their signature sound and they haven't looked back since.

Twenty-five years later, the godfathers of SoCal punk are shaking things up again, albeit on a much smaller scale. "The Dissent of Man" shows Bad Religion doing something very unfamilar -- looking inward. The usual lyrics about politics and (the lack of) God, give way to something much more personal. New words appear, like "loneliness," "hurt," and -- if you can believe it -- "love."

The band also expands the sonic palette. As usual, guitarist and songwriter Brett Gurewitz delivers plenty of militant, "Recipe for Hate"-era riffs ("Meeting of the Minds"). But this time around, he also allows his folk/country side to a sneak into the mix ("Cyanide"). 

It's clear that the focus of "Dissent" is on crafting songs, rather than just making statements. That's all fine and good in theory, but does it make for a good Bad Religion record?

Sort of.

The record feels divided between the new, introspective tunes and the usual cerebral preaching. The best moments come from the former. "The Wrong Way Kids" manages to both reminisce on younger days and recognize the failings of adulthood ("The kids today are gone away petitioning the dust/With nobody to look up to because they're looking up to us.") "Turn Your Back on Me" is a heartfelt look at love lost. And "Only Rain" may be the best in the band's long list of songs about faith and God ("Rain fell like judgment across my windowpane/Said it fell like judgment, but it was only rain.")

Much of the rest feels like filler, or at least shows less conviction. "Someone to Believe" works well in the Bad Religion formula -- lightning-fast verses and harmony-filled choruses -- but others with the same pattern fall short ("The Day the Earth Stalled," "Ad Hominem"). The worst offender is "The Resist Stance" where the band completely phones in a call to anti-authoritarian arms. 

Even with its weaknesses, "The Dissent of Man" is an important release for fans who have stuck with the band for the past three decades. It shows the band is willing to test its limits, if only just a little.    

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Next up, a review of Greg's book.