Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Bad Religion

Bad Religion still rocks, as I discovered at their show at Times Square on Sunday night. Lead singer Greg Graffin's consistently awful inter-song banter aside, the band puts on an amazing live show. This band gets the genre as few punk rock groups do. Punk rock, I think, works best when it channels the senseless, angry tumult of youthful rebellion to rail against the general fucked-up-edness of the status quo. Graffin (and bandmate Mr. Brett) does this as incisively and articulately as anyone. Plus the music rocks even if you don't understand what Graffin is saying, which is crucial to the success of any pop/rock act.

I'm willing to forgive the occasional misguided ode to Malthus (the BR song "10 in 2010," in which Graffin sings about the hopelessness of living in a world with 10 billion people in it in 2010, was just factually wrong) for the sake of lines like "I don't know if the billions will survive, but I'll believe in God when one and one are five," or "God I want to be a man, but I don't want to die with a rifle in my hand."

Graffin, once he's broken through the veneer of good intentions and mindless convention that people use to cover up ugliness in the world, and once he has skewered the self-serving hypocrisy of the ruling class, doesn't seem particularly interested in building a better tomorrow. He doesn't claim to have the answers, and he's suspicious of ideology of any kind, including the so-called punk rock movement: "Empty causes, direction for the soul, conviction for the mind, empty causes, you've got yours and I've got mine." (However, contrast this with "Punk Rock Song": "This is just a punk rock song, written for the people who can see something's wrong," unlike the rest of the population, who are "big strong people unwilling to give, small in vision and perspective.")

In the end, Graffin wonders whether each of us would be "better off dead, a smile on the lips and a hole in the head." Fortunately for us all, "slumber will come soon."

Not the most pleasant perspective, maybe, but god, how many more love songs do we need on the radio?

On a side note, while I felt a little old, at 27, to be going to a punk rock show, I was at least a decade younger than nearly everyone on stage (Murphy's Law, Pennywise, and Bad Religion have been around a long time—Anti-Flag is a bit more youthful) and a number of other concert-goers. But the median age was probably 21. So why do young kids keep coming to hear these somewhat faded bands who have never been on MTV? I'd like to say it's because the music is objectively stellar, but I'm not sure what the real answer is …