Aside from essentially defining the California half-pipe punk blueprint, Bad Religion has defied the usual trend-shifts or values-ditched ubiquities of the usual punk band storyline and morphed along with challenging album after challenging album amid astoundingly consistent touring, retaining their core audience while roping in subsequent generations of anxiously energetic kids.
The band has long settled into the current lineup who have arguably enacted to most muscular Bad Religion to ever grace a stage: Greg Graffin (vocals) and Jay Bentley (bass) join Brian Baker (guitarist since ’94), guitarist Mike Dimkich, and drummer Jamie Miller.
Bad Religion is in an almost singular position in the history of punk. Having formed right on the heels of the original explosion, they led the west coast arm of hardcore’s birth, adding their melodic riffs, zooming harmonies, and viciously verbose lyrical punch to the basic bash of hardcore.
Then the band continued to expand their template through the ‘80s and into the indebted “neo-punk” sound of the early ‘90s, and weathered the questionable dichotomies of the “alternative rock” era by doing what they’ve always done – releasing explosive album after album to consistent acclaim from fans and critics. And if you’re positive there is no way they could keep doing the same thing all these years, you’d be right.
They haven’t. They’ve continued to throw songwriting and production wrenches into the works so’s not to bore themselves or their never-diminishing following.
They have released 17 studio albums to their ever-widening audience. The band’s rep as socially aware thought-provokers can obscure the fact they’ve remained one of the most viscerally powerful live bands on the planet, remembering it’s the beats and riffs that get your ass off the couch in the first place. Of course, being stuck to the couch was sometimes inescapable during our last terrible years of COVID fear. So once again leaning into their smarts, Bad Religion concocted an online run of eight, chronologically curated, streaming live show docuseries, recorded at the Roxy in Hollywood as COVID reared its fangs.
Two seasons of career-highlighting, fan-thanking ballyhoo, featuring jaw-dropping reminders of the band’s development in the face of often simplistic skate punk pigeonholing. When he’s not stomping on some festival stage in front of thousands somewhere, singer Greg Graffin is a professor and author who has released numerous books on history and personal survival. He even garnered the prestigious Rushdie Award for Cultural Humanism from the Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy in 2008. In 2022 Greg released his memoir of growing up in the Punk scene, Punk Paradox.
And in 2021, Bad Religion released its own long-awaited autobiography, Do What You Want: The Story of Bad Religion, credited to, of course, the whole band. While propped up on the band’s egalitarian legend, its focus is the long and moshing road of a band who probably would’ve laughed if you’d told their 20-something selves they’d be celebrating their 43rd anniversary. Laughed, then strapped on their guitars and jumped out on stage again. Being Bad Religion is what they do best; they see no reason to take their foot off the pedal any time soon.