Bad Religion
Age of Unreason


3.0
good

Review

by StrizzMatik USER (17 Reviews)
May 3rd, 2019 | 107 replies


Release Date: 05/03/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A man once said "I don't believe in self-important folks who preach."

Bad Religion's 2018 standalone single, "The Kids Are Alt-Right", was an illuminating release for several reasons: one, it put the world on notice as to where the band stood on the political divide, probably a shock to no one; two, the song was heavily derided for being slow, boring, lyrically out-of-touch and full of logical stretches and clumsy stereotypes, and widely considered one of the worst songs they've ever done. In a hilarious twist, many actual alt-right kids on 4chan and the like unironically adopted the song as their anthem, probably the last thing the band was shooting for. Quickly redeeming themselves with the BR-approved rager "The Profane Rights Of Man" (a bonus track on here), "TKAAR" and Brett's Gurewitz's Twitter should've told us what was coming down the pike - BR were getting REALLY political on the new album, whether you like it or not.

The songs on Age Of Unreason - Bad Religion's 17th LP - are perfectly serviceable and fun to listen to, most of the time. It's a Bad Religion record and you know what it's going to sound like before you've even heard of it, which is both a strength and a weakness. There's some great songs like "Chaos From Within", "Old Regime" and "My Sanity", "The Approach", and "What Tomorrow Brings" that are just as fiery and melodically brilliant as any of their finest work. But then there's those awkward, musically/lyrically cringeworthy tracks like "Big Black Dog", "Lose Your Head", and "Since Now" that show the band's age, and recycle their own riffs and songs to diminishing returns. The album ends up more or less in line with their other post-2000 output in quality, sitting right in the middle-low tier of their catalogue, with half the songs being solid-to-great and the other half fairly forgettable.

Jamie Miller and Mike Dimkich, the new drummer and rhythm guitarist, respectively, do a great if uneventful job in their first outing, with Greg's vocals on particular sounding incredible for his age and Jay's bass thumping dutifully throughout. Jamie certainly doesn't do flash or originality like Brooks Wackerman did, but he's hard-hitting and relentless in the style of Bobby Schayer, albeit a bit more slick as seen in the pummelling "Do The Paranoid Style". Aside from a couple of great solos from Brian Baker and Brett on some songs, musically the band is a bit more reserved than their post-Atlantic work with Brooks and mainly playing it safe in a move that doesn't always work out in keeping the listener’s interest - it feels like a step backwards. The songs just don't go anywhere interesting, and the shorter track lengths that were a strength in True North work against it here. The poppier tracks like "Lose Your Head" and "Big Black Dog" come off forced or painfully awkward in that lovable "Dad" Religion kind of way, and again show that BR really have no idea how to self-edit with quality control.

The real issue here is the lyrics, which will be sure to get a variety of wildly-different opinions. If you're hard left-wing / liberal, here's your new favorite Orange Man Bad record; on AOU, BR sound the alarm once again, this time on everyone's favorite target, Donald Trump. The result ends up sounding like pretty much every other vaguely-liberal band that has something to say about Donald Trump - mainly, he's a racist, sexist, Nazi, puppy kicker, racist, got two scoops, literally _______, did I mention RACIST?, Mueller stuff, cages kids, and says mean words, just like Hitler did! And if you at all agree with him, or voted for him for any reason at all, by extension YOU are also those same things. Yawn. Bad Religion have never been so bluntly political, and it's kinda gross. If you happen to be a more moderate, centrist, or right-leaning, you'd probably think that BR are diving face-first into full Trump Derangement Syndrome, and resorting to tired stereotypes and sloganeering instead of truly insightful criticism - and you'd be right. In the past, the band was always choosing The Big Picture view over that of political sniping and internecine conflicts and staying above the petty partisanship and ***-flinging. But that's not the case anymore, as the lyrics of "Chaos From Within" are a primo setup for the proceedings: start to finish, prepare to be bludgeoned with Blue Checkmark-approved liberal Boomerisms and strawmen, with a partisan vitriol that BR really never stooped to before even in The Empire Strikes First, and it never lets up. At least they had SOME subtlety and nuance on TESF - this is just beneath them, really, punching down for the sake of it and dating the record to a specific time, doubtless to age much worse than their older work.

It's the law of diminishing returns - if everyone is doing the same thing, that thing is no longer special or original, and you have to put a fresh take on said topic or it just becomes rote preaching to the converted. In terms of criticizing Trump, BR aren't saying anything insightful, original or different that you haven't heard from any op-ed pundit on say, CNN, MSNBC or Huffington Post - they're just using bigger words to slam anyone not in their ideological bubble, which is truly hilarious in hindsight for a band who wrote “Them And Us”, "The Answer" and "No Direction". "Do The Paranoid Style" is a study in dark irony if you contrast the lyrics to Brett's own Twitter Russiagate meltdowns. For a band that's usually much more cerebral in their approach, this comes off like fear-mongering and reductive. And when the whole album plays out like this, which limits the appeal of the record as strictly one for those receptive to their specific political message, weakening the enjoyment for anyone not lockstep with their extreme-left viewpoints - which wouldn't be as big as issue, if the music wasn't so by-the-numbers.

I want to like Age Of Unreason more, I really do. But aside from the frequently-cringeworthy politics and partisan attacks, the music itself simply doesn't interest as much as BR has on their most recent albums. It lacks the intensity of True North, the effective musical detours and experimental touches of Dissent and New Maps, and the general songwriting quality of Empire and The Process Of Belief, but has its moments. It's still better than the latter Atlantic years, but not by much, and doesn't even approach the level of quality of their ‘87-’94 Golden Age, but it's still a passable BR album that has more good than bad and is a testament to the generally-likable sound they've cultivated. The biggest issue is the fact that, well, they're beating a lyrical dead horse for punk scene / PC points and becoming more divisive in their approach, leaving any and all subtlety and nuance in a ditch, and it's a crappy look for them. Hopefully they come back stronger next time and don't end their career on such a divisive note.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
WatchItExplode
May 3rd 2019


7375 Comments


Thanks for reviewing Strizz. This is like New America with a couple decent 20-teens b-sides.

Digging: Lunar Shadow - The Smokeless Fires

StrizzMatik
May 3rd 2019


3882 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

I have to agree. It's got some very good songs with some really wtf musical moments, and they lay way too hard on the Fuck Trump horn and it hurts the lyrical quality. Brett is a MUCH better lyricist than this, they come off like pro-establishment limousine liberal "punks" here. Everyone knew they were trashing Bush in Empire, but they were smart about it. They could've explored any number of angles here and kept it dumb and divisive.

WatchItExplode
May 3rd 2019


7375 Comments


Yeah, it's bit sad to see a band that was positively prophetic and help shape my world view reduced to such lazy jabs at the establishment.

StrizzMatik
May 3rd 2019


3882 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

They've always been pretty left-wing but kept it rooted firmly in populist themes, here it's just BLONAL DUMPF, liberal doomporn, yay globalism and right-wing = bad and racist and Nazis. Brett and Baker's Twitter is full of boomer NPC cringe especially. I can see how some people will love this for the same reasons I dislike it though lol.

fromrows
May 3rd 2019


336 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

A really fantastic review Strizz! I couldn't agree with you more! I would also link the album to New America quality wise like WatchItExplode! The only other song I like here that you didn't point out is the title track. Really hope this won't be last BR album, because True North was a way stronger finish to their career if that is the case.

Digging: The Murder City Devils - In Name and Blood

Firedust
May 3rd 2019


1176 Comments


Yeah, it's bit sad to see a band that was positively prophetic and help shape my world view reduced to such lazy jabs at the establishment.

At least we got their old stuff and propagandhi

StrizzMatik
May 3rd 2019


3882 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

It has a dash of TNA and No Substance for sure, but Brett's stink is all over the album (and not in a good way this time). Interesting to note that this is the first album where Greg and Brett have songwriting credits in every track as opposed to half the songs each, too.

StrizzMatik
May 3rd 2019


3882 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Propagandhi's last album was what this could have been. They comment on specific topics and are even harder left, but they go at it so much more subtly and with more wit and deeper understanding of the bigger picture. BR should leave this kind of partisan political derp to NOFX or Green Day, bigger words don't make the lyrics any smarter

veninblazer
May 3rd 2019


10193 Comments


Watch out, Strizz. Woke Sputnik is probably going to rage at your paragraph about the lyrical content.

fromrows
May 3rd 2019


336 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"Interesting to note that this is the first album where Greg and Brett have songwriting credits in every track as opposed to half the songs each, too." I didn't know that! Many BR fans can usually point out Brett and Greg songs individually, but I personally couldn't this time around so that makes so much sense to me

StrizzMatik
May 3rd 2019


3882 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Oh I bet on it lol. And yeah, it's another reason I'm not crazy about this - the songs lack that distinction between themselves. Adding Greg's more analytical reporter-style lyrics to Brett's bleeding-heart liberal poetic stylings usually works great, but not when they're both preaching to you on how to think.

TL;DR

Other punk bands: Orange Man Bad

Bad Religion: Tangerine-shaded reprobate of ill-repute

decisions
May 3rd 2019


460 Comments


Great review. Not a huge BR fan but I pretty much agree with everything you said upon listening to about half the record.

I'm not a liberal, but every time I listen to Shape, Refused makes me consider becoming a socialist. This is just not really effective or interesting. I miss Brooks. However I will say that Greg's vocals are holding up very nicely and he does write a good melody here and there.

WeepinnWillow
May 3rd 2019


862 Comments


posting so this shows up in my discussions because I want to see woke Sputnik's comments later

Digging: Dragonette - Fixin to Thrill

WeepinnWillow
May 3rd 2019


862 Comments


oh yeah good review too

veninblazer
May 3rd 2019


10193 Comments


@decisions: i still need to check out shape ngl

DatsNotDaMetulz
May 3rd 2019


3925 Comments


Recently I've been listening to Gallows' 2009 album Grey Britain because it's 10 years old this week and still has lyrical relevancy today (in some cases it felt prophetic). It has those extremely hard hitting, on the nose lyrics but did it in a way that felt both like a snapshot of the time, and timeless as well. And though I'm as happy as the next punk to do a bit of conservative bashing and nazi hunting, you have to be more nuanced in how you go about it in a musical context. Bad Religion didn't really do that here. It's a decent album and for those who can relate to the feelings expressed in the lyrics, it carries some relevancy for the next year/until Trump gets impeached. But it has a limited shelf life.

Sinternet
May 3rd 2019


21120 Comments


lol what do you expect a political american punk band to talk about, in-depth analysis of congressional bills?

Digging: Vi Som Alskade Varandra Sa Mycket - Det Onda. Det Goda. Det Vackra. Det Fula.

SlothcoreSam
May 3rd 2019


1312 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Best review summary ever!

Digging: Viboras - Bleed

Sinternet
May 3rd 2019


21120 Comments


like i understand your point but you don't even give any examples to back it up which just seems like weak writing

StrizzMatik
May 3rd 2019


3882 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

I didn't want to start quoting lyrics because I would I have written a review three times longer to point out all the things I have issues with, really. I gave a couple of examples, one being that the message of "Do The Paranoid Style" is mocking conspiracy theorists while Brett himself pushed a fabricated conspiracy theory for years on Twitter. The album has tons of lines that come off as hilariously lacking self-awareness



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