Review Summary: This could have been a defining free album, one for the annals of history; however, a severe miscalculation in the setlist keeps it a merely acceptable, if ultimately rather frustrating, release.
Ever since their appearance a couple of years ago, free and official album downloads have been revolutionizing the way both fans and musicians alike see music. After all, there are many benefits to giving your oeuvre away: you make your old fans happy, gain some new ones, attain name recognition, make the specialized news and even avoid being swindled by the greedy middleman. The downside is that you may come off losing a bit of money, but overall, there seem to be more positives than negatives to free album distribution.
This is why, in recent years, this phenomenon has ceased to be the privilege of ultra-underground metal and indie acts and expanded to encompass even widely-known bands. In recent times, Coldplay, the Pixies, Calexico and Annihilator have all put up totally free and totally official releases as thank-you notes for the fans or as means to attain new ones. To this distinguished list, one must now add another band: Bad Religion.
On second thought, it does make sense for a band who always took pride in their underground ethics and anti-commercial stance to offer their fans a free album. Furthermore, Bad Religion have a very good reason to do so, seeing as 2010 marks the thirtieth anniversary of their foundation. And a live album - a free
live album - seemed the perfect way to do so; after all, the Angelinos have always arguably been more of a singles band than an album band. Despite their anti-commercialism, the band have always stood out because of single songs, with their full-lenghts veering between the repetitive and the hit-or-miss. However, even the most mediocre Bad Religion release always had at least one or two awesome songs, which is what made 30 Years Live
such a great idea on paper: grab a few of our greatest hits, play them for the rabid fans, and let's party.
Unfortunately, however, the band managed to botch what seemed like a perfect project by making the setlist, at the very least, questionable. You see, 30 Years Live
is not a Greatest Hits Live album. There is no Against the Grain
here, no Sinister Rouge, Sorrow, Give You Nothing, Generator
or Punk Rock Song
. Some well-known songs do appear - American Jesus, Suffer, A Walk
- but the album seems far too concerned with material only the fans would be interested in. Which is all well and good, seeing as this album is mostly for the fans; but one cannot help but wonder why Bad Religion would leave out the casual fan who wants to listen to his favorite songs.
Besides, this setlist imbalance ends up harming the record itself. While the band's performance is lively and well-oiled throughout, the lesser songs provide moments of nondescript boredom, where the old Bad Religion feeling of listening to the same song again with different lyrics does set in. This feeling is partially redeemed by the best moments on this album - where it is hard to even remember why we were so frustrated before - but at the end of the day, it is unsurprising that the few well-known songs are also the standouts. Barring some pleasant surprises like an unexpectedly melancholy Dearly Beloved
, the best songs on this album are those we expected to be: American Jesus
is its boisterous, rip-roaring self, New Dark Ages
is perhaps the best thing on here, and Los Angeles Is Burning
provides a fitting tribute to the city that saw Bad Religion be born, and where this celebratory concert is taking place. Much of the rest is taken up by stereotypical Bad Religion songs, i.e, blasts of energy which come and go leaving little aside from some clever rebellious lyricism.
In the end, then, it is a pity 30 Years Live
does not manage to be all that it could be. This could have been a defining free album, one for the annals of history; however, a severe miscalculation in the setlist keeps it a merely acceptable, if ultimately rather frustrating, release.
New Dark Ages
Los Angeles Is Burning
[u]Download it officially and for FREE here: www.badreligion.com/mailinglist.html