Bad Religion – ‘Age of Unreason’

By Tom Walsh

There are not many bands that come close to wracking up a career spanning 40 years, there are almost no bands that last 40 years and yet still remain relevant. Bad Religion are not most bands, though, and there could not be a more relevant time for the punk rock royalty than right now.

Every time you turn on the news, you are met with the latest catastrophic policy decision by governments over the world; nationalism runs rampant across Europe, the UK is mired in a never-ending Brexit Hell and across the pond they have a reality TV star cum white supremacist-sympathising president in the White House.

‘Age of Unreason’ could not be a more apt title for Bad Religion album number 17. It’s one of the most visceral records the band have produced since 2004’s ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ but is still delivered with that trademark eloquent bow. It’s a pit of boiling anger spun into the big hooks and soaring hooks you would expect from Greg Graffin and Brett Gurewitz.

‘Age of Unreason’ is a record that reflects the sentiment of many people in the world today; from NFL players being booed for making a stand against police brutality to constant demonisation of immigrants to the looming climate crisis, it’s a record that is the head-in-hands disbelief of how our society disintegrated so quickly.

Opener ‘Chaos From Within’ sets a visceral standard with Graffin’s unmistakable vocals telling a tale of a world eating itself. It crashes into the incredibly bleak ‘My Sanity’ which holds the poignant line of “sometimes there’s no sane reason for optimism”, an unusually fatalistic line from a band more used to delivering calls to arms but I guess these are the times we live in.

Amid the myriad of politically charged tracks on ‘Age of Unreason’, it is the pointed ‘Candidate’ which takes the current system to task. Graffin paints the picture of the white knight bellowing “I truly feel your pain/I can make it go away” which sends an icy chill down the spine of the echoes of the current incumbent of the White House’s rally cries.

As we have all found out at our immense expense, the president is indeed what Graffin says, “I am your candidate, I am bloody lips and makeup. I’m your caliphate, opioids and mutilation, a celebrity and my name is competition”.

This isn’t a record made simply to dunk on the current president, that would be too easy. Gurewitz has previously spoken of the level of introspection the album has which is demonstrated in the personal ‘Lose Your Head’ which questions our own role of bringing the world to this point.

Bad Religion join us in the deep sense of foreboding as to what happens next with closing track ‘What Tomorrow Brings’. In the six years since Bad Religion released their last record, ‘True North’, the world has changed. We are a planet in a constant state of crisis and in these moments of crises we need a voice. When everything is in flux, you need a constant and Bad Religion delivers in our hour of need.

When all around is burning, when our values are under attack and hope is starting to fade, maybe punk rock can save us after all. This may be the only sane reason for optimism.


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