Search This Blog

Friday, January 11, 2013

Bad Religion: 30 Years Live


1) Fuck Armageddon, This Is Hell; 2) Dearly Beloved; 3) Suffer; 4) Man With A Mission; 5) New Dark Ages; 6) Germs Of Perfection; 7) Marked; 8) A Walk; 9) Flat Earth Society; 10) Resist Stance; 11) American Jesus; 12) Social Suicide; 13) Atheist Peace; 14) Tomorrow; 15) Won't Somebody; 16) Los Angeles Is Burning; 17) We're Only Gonna Die.

I suppose that every band that has managed to last for 30 years — yes, even Chicago! — is en­titled to a live album commemorating such a jubilee, particularly if it is offered as a free down­load, so that nobody has any official reason to complain: if you don't want it, pretend it never existed, and don't worry about your refunds. And besides — honestly, not every rock'n'roll band will last 30 years without losing a single vibration of their original sound. Of course, sticking to hardcore regulations helps a lot: unlike, say, The Rolling Stones, you have to keep yourself in super-tight shape at all times to match the format. No matter how many chords are involved — throw yourself off the rhythm once or twice and you're dead. From that point of view, 30 years on, Bad Religion are, indeed, very much alive.

Most sources state that the 30-year jubilee tour went a notch higher in pomposity than usual: every night, the band would play exactly 30 songs, which extended the preferable length of the show to about twice as long as required by everybody's understanding of the norms of hardcore. (For some reason, they only played about 20 dates, though, which drags down the symbolic value of the tour). Furthermore, no single setlist repeated itself more than once, assuring us all that Bad Religion are capable of such endearing silliness as memorizing their entire catalog (not that it should require a particularly large stock of memory cells, but Graffin does have to remember all the words, not to mention spitting 'em out at rapid-fire rates — that university degree has got to count for something, after all).

Disappointingly, the resulting album only has 17 songs, clocking in at a measly 41 minutes — a strange decision, since a 70-minute download with thirty songs in 2010 would hardly result in overclocking anybody's bandwidth. The «defective» setlist consequently overlooks several key albums — nothing from No Control or The New America, for instance — and is heavily biased towards the «new shit», with around three songs each for the new albums and even a preview of a couple numbers from the upcoming Dissent Of Man. Obviously, this is supposed to mean that even thirty years into their career, Bad Religion are still as relevant for the world as they used to be — and even though we might be sick to death of them already, we still have to admit that, in a way, this is absolutely true.

Rating this album feels useless: the performances are predictably top-notch and just as predic­tably predictable, with both sides canceling out each other's excitement and boredom. The setlist does tilt somewhat into the «non-hit» direction: many of the oldies and most of the «newies» are either second-row singles or non-singles, so you get a chance to refresh stuff like ʽMarkedʼ or ʽTomorrowʼ in your memories. And, conspicuously, the album both opens and closes with a num­ber from How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, implying that, perhaps, after all, the band does acknowledge that it already had said it all on their first LP — and that everything that followed was just for the pinheads who didn't get it straight the first time. Other than that, there is really nothing else to prompt any serious mental activity on the part of the reviewer.


  1. Mr Starostin-please forgive me for asking this here as it's off-topic, but I don't see how else to contact you-I read your essays at your old site and agreed with them, especially the "rock is dead" (so far as anyone knows, etc) one. I want your opinion because from reading your writings on pop music, it will be objective and get to the point.

    Question-how does country music fit into all this? I'd say it's dead also, everything seems to have hurtled into a black hole of homogenisation except things like rap which couldn't be an more simple and deriveative than it was from the start (and I mean that perjoratively, rap is the distillation to the most primitive point of pop music, and I believe that lack of ability has a lot to do with this-people can't or won't learn anymore).

    I would be so thankful if you could spare time from your busy life to answer this, because I believe that you'll have an objective and concise answer. I don't mind if you answer publicly or privately. Thank you.

    1. Dear Melanie,

      As far as I am concerned, everything is well alive today - and perfectly dead at the same time. Alive, because new music is being produced every day in every musical genre known to mankind, and probably will still be for some time. Dead, because music has all but lost its power to shock, startle, and surprise, unless - like many young people today - one is living off a clean slate and happily listening to the Strokes without having the least idea of who the Rolling Stones or the Who used to be.

      As for your second question, well, of course there have been important historical coincidences - mainly tied in to either technical progress (invention of new instruments, electricity etc.) or periods of general social upheaval (the 1960s). Therefore, it cannot be said for certain whether music today is "dead" for all time - since we currently find ourselves in a state of general social slump, and also witness a general slowing down of technical progress. There is nothing particularly objective about this opinion, of course, but that's the way I feel about it.

    2. Hello George,

      I've been very lucky to find your blog. Thanks to it, I have found a lot of good music. I just want to thank you for your wonderful job, your reviews are not only helpfull, but also quite funny. I'm always reading them when I'm listnening to some music, Kate Bush discography at the moment. I've seen the list of your CD's collection, and I'm just dying to ask you about the band Talk Talk. 'Cause letter "T" is far-far ahead, and I just really want to know your opinion, what do you think about them ?

      Many thanks, and bless you.

      P.S. - Robert Christgau, as his reviews, sucks!)

  2. Also-I don't know if this is true or not, it's just an idea-I would love to see your deconstruction of it-

    Perhaps it's not that rock, or any other genre of music (or anything else) has ever followed any pattern of peaks and valleys-perhaps it's more like a very few times in history, things in the culture have converged-lucky circumstances-in just the right way at just the right point to make a fortuitous coincidence for the transcendence of a style of music, and then that circumstance was over and finished. IOW, there wasn't really a progression to and a regression from it, it just "happened" because of this fortunate convergence, then it was over.

    I am glad that some styles which I love (such as bluegrass) never had this explosion so therefore no destruction-though bluegrass, as everything, is stagnant now. It's just not the right time in history for the circumstances which produced bluegrass and made it "alive". People don't have the authentic experience for it anymore-heck, they don't even have the authentic accents anymore.

    I don't subscribe to this, I merely offer it as a theory.

    Sheesh, who really knows what to think about anything that has happened in this world?

    Glad I'm a Christian, or there wouldn't be any certainty about anything in life or history!

    1. "or there wouldn't be any certainty"
      Hasn't been a problem for me since I became an unbeliever 35 years ago. Some things are much more likely than others.
      As for your question, pop, rock, country and blues almost always use tonal scales and they are limited. There is a finite amount of ways you can combine notes. Rhythm, harmony and instrumentation add variety, but do not increase that amount.
      That's what GS refers to when writing about the pool of musical ideas getting dried up. So "rock is dead" essentially means "being original has become impossible".

    2. I should of course have said explicitly "certainty for me", re Christianity. I assume people are referring to their personal worldview when they say such things.
      I understood "rock is dead" to imply, as you say, no more possibilities for significant innovation. That's what I also mean.
      I suppose my main question was to whether there is really a progression to and regression from, rather than a mere lucky circumstance of events, culture, technology, etc converging, which can only happen a few times in history, therefore making the event rare in the first place and not feasible through our striving to make it come about, alone, something of which we don't have complete, if any, control. Such an event didn't happen in bluegrass, for,instance.

      Also, where does the popular music of the early-middle twentieth century (Berlin, Porter, ragtime, Cohan, etc) fit into this?


    3. Sorry, I hardly know anything about the pop music of the early middle 20th Century; neither about bluegrass. Also I don't understand your question (blame it on me being Dutch). Progression to and regression from what? Anyhow, it's undeniable that the rise of pop/rock - and several later developments - has everything to do with technology. Hardrock/heavy metal/progrock only came to the foreground after amplifiers were enormously improved. That explains why so many records of the early 70's sounded so shitty and had to be remastered/remixed. It also explains why so many live recordings after 1980 are simply irrelevant.
      I'm not sure how much culture has to do with it. Musical as a language seems universal. For instance I have no problem digesting Javanese gamelan music, while pop music from India, China and Indonesia is closely related to its western parents.

  3. Another useless post re. Bad Religion:
    Bandwidth could be congested, not overclocked. :-)

  4. It's interesting the first comment ever for BR has nothing to do with their music, and ironic it was posted by a believer:) Don't think Graffin and Gurewitz would be too impressed...of course, 9 out 10 music fans ain't too impressed with them either.

  5. The further that rock becomes removed from it's roots the more it's going to suck to paraphrase Bob Dylan who's done his fair share of sucking since the 60s.