photo & text by nacrowe
with the rise and proliferation of RUSSIAN DISINFORMATION, CLIMATE SCIENCE DENIALISM, the SOCIAL MEDIA BOTS, AMERICAN WHITE NATIONALISM and rampant cable news sanctioned XENOPHOBIA being experienced across the UNITED STATES, its likely that there has ever been a more prescient time for a book about SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HARDCORE PUNK ROCK legends BAD RELIGION than our current TRUMPIAN post-fact moment of existential peril. when i consider their influence and legacy, ironically what comes to mind is how throughout their career they seemed very much focused on the present. HARDCORE PUNK ROCK, especially those that descended on the original LOS ANGELES/HOLLYWOOD scene in the early 1980s once the SOUTH BAY, ORANGE COUNTY and the bland extended SUBURBAN wastelands of places like OXNARD and the SAN FERNANDO VALLEY (where the members of BAD RELIGION resided) joined the party all were inherently aggressively transgressive.
but BAD RELIGION was different. as pointed out repeatedly in their recently published autobiography DO WHAT YOU WANT: THE STORY OF BAD RELIGION (HATCHETTE BOOKS, 2020), written by current and past members of BAD RELIGION with help from scribe JIM RULAND (who also collaborated on KEITH MORRIS' 2016 memoir, review linked HERE), the band was focused on using the template of PUNK ROCK as palette to project their musings and observations about how the world works.
the two central figures in this narrative are singer GREG GRAFFIN and guitarist BRETT GUREWITZ, who met through a mutual friend in high school. their songs explore a strident philosophical strain that puts them in concert with the humanist tradition dating back to the enlightenment. again, its beyond timely that their songs as treatises about issues both political and personal are being presented again in an era where lies and untruths have smothered both our political dialogue and our self-conception as AMERICANS.
but i should back up. the book covers their origins, development and ability to move forward despite constantly revolving line-up shifts, music industry cycles and regressive political climates. their independence and longevity is largely due to the relationship of GRAFFIN and GUREWITZ. famously GRAFFIN pursued a side academic career as an EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGIST, receiving his doctorate from CORNELL UNIVERSITY no less, and his availability based on these pursuits both determined the schedule of the band and provided GUREWITZ the time and space to both run his independent label EPITAPH RECORDS and write songs for the band. as fan, i always wondered how that arrangement worked. through this book i learned that when the band jumped to ATLANTIC RECORDS it disrupted both GRAFFIN's academic schedule (as he made himself more available for extensive touring) and GUREWITZ' ability to pull double duty with the band and label, leading to his departure.
eventually the band came to a balance after fulfilling their major label contract after four albums to return to EPITAPH and allow GUREWITZ the freedom to produce and write songs, but not tour. this arrangement has been going on now for the better part of twenty years and counting and no doubt has resulted in their longevity and current status as elder statesmen.
for me they are the LENNON/MCCARTNEY of PUNK ROCK. i also feel that what JOE STRUMMER attempted to convey with limited success is what they both actually achieved as songwriters. this is partly due to their songwriting prowess and production abilities, but i also feel it is due to their creativity and profoundly inquisitive nature. i think longtime fans will be pleasantly surprised to learn how many songs were written by GUREWITZ that most no doubt assumed were GRAFFIN compositions. GRAFFIN is renowned as the PUNK ROCK professor but GUREWITZ is very much his equal and this book sets the record straight on that accord.
great autobiography the presents them and their message of bringing intelligence and intellectual rigor to PUNK ROCK lyricism that is often maligned and derided, especially during the HARDCORE scene that birthed them. if you are interested in PUNK ROCK or meaningful music that asks its listener to think for themselves, then definitely check out this book.
otherwise just go listen to KID ROCK. or KANYE.
parodies by nacrowe
with summer just about over it seemed like a good time as ever to look back at all my favorite bands that played on WARPED TOUR over its 25 year run. many of these bands i saw live and some were gone way too soon for me to get the chance. for me the WARPED TOUR will always be synonymous with being a teenager running free in the summer.
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photo manipulation by nacrowe
i discovered this ongoing series on the PREMIER GUITAR youtube channel a few years ago and have long been obsessed with it. as a failed guitar player myself, it is fun to hear from the players and their techs about all sorts of details regarding their sound and setup. the format is basically a run through of their guitars and amps as well as pedal configurations and individual opinions/philosophy regarding reliability/fidelity tradeoff between analog vs digital, cords vs wireless, in-ear vs speaker monitors, etc.
its really cool to to witness the minutiae of their sound, even diving into things like string gauges, pick thickness, pickup configurations, bridges, tuners and the list goes on. it is definitely a niche audience that gets off on this sort of thing, but i am squarely in that demographic.
for me their is never enough times to witness people talk about their prized LES PAUL JR, JAZZMASTER, D-28, COUNTRY GENTLEMAN, P-BASS, 370 12-string, JAZZ BASS, DOBRO TRICONE, 4003 BASS, WHITE FALCON or TELECASTER. or for that matter any variety of high-gain amplifier models like the DUAL RECTIFIER (BLINK 182, PENNYWISE), JCM 800 (SLAYER, JUDAS PRIEST), ROCKERVERB 100 (MASTODON), HIWATT CP103 (THE WHO), 5150 (VAN HALEN), JMP 2204 (AC/DC), SHIVA (ALICE IN CHAINS, TOOL), BE100 (ALICE IN CHAINS), VH4 (TOOL), CENTURY 200 (PANTERA, WHITE ZOMBIE), UBERSCHALL (TOOL) or a MARK IIC+ (early METALLICA)
whats also interesting over time is witnessing firsthand the trend towards digital amp profilers and modelers like the HELIX, KEMPER and especially the AXE FX which allows their setup to be easily transportable (like hand carry-on in a plane easy) as well as more consistent given that traditional tube amplifiers require maintenance from time to time depending on weather, humidity conditions.
you really get a sense of how and why guitar and bass musicians and those that support them utilize the gear they do on tour. you also get a clear "inside baseball" perspective on how they view these numerous tradeoff decisions every musician has to make, and they all have differing opinions. its basically required viewing for anyone interested in gear used by rock bands.
anyway, if you're interested definitely check out the examples i embedded below (these don't even scratch the surface of the total playlist linked HERE).
photo manipulation by nacrowe
ok i realize that BAD RELIGION by no means is a new band and that in the past i only highlighted recent, more obscure bands in this CHECK OUT THIS BAND series. but really i just felt the need to write about them.
with all this shit surrounding DONALD TRUMP and the dire future of american democracy conceivably going the way of a strong-man dictatorship like those i've lived under in the past (ALBANIA, NIGERIA, MYANMAR and VENEZUELA), its disheartening how few recording artists these days have explicitly addressed this sense of existential dread in an intelligent manner.
enter BAD RELIGION. they're whole career has been a rallying cry against corporate greed and fascism since the 1980s, but to continue doing so publicly at THIS stage during THIS political moment with THIS proto-fascist in charge is beyond admirable, its a necessity. i can't express how much i respect them for that, giving an intelligent voice for the opposition is unequivocally HARDCORE, absolutely PUNK ROCK. i would argue it is their finest hour.
i just wish other musicians would stop worrying about the music industry and how to maximize their market-share and consumer brand identification and just go for the jugular like these QUINQUAGENARIANS! it bothers me that a group of BABY BOOMERS are the only relevant cultural force out there addressing this sort of thing, but then maybe i shouldn't be that surprised with everyone inwardly concerned about their social media presence and sponsorship/cross-branding opportunities. just a shame.
we still have BAD RELIGION thankfully. support them and the organizations they assist. and register to vote. please.