‘30 Years Live’ Album Review

Bad Religion’s tribute to all things punk rock.

By Ben Sparks - Feb 24, 2016
Review of 30 Years Live album by punk rockers Bad Religion. Bad Religion’s tribute to all things punk rock. Bad Religion

Thirty years of punk history jammed into one slick package, this vinyl reissue of Bad Religion’s 30 Years Live, is a testament to how far the band has come and how their message has sustained over three decades. Since their unholy formation in Los Angeles back in ‘79, Bad Religion has put out sixteen studio albums, with this being only their second live album. It’s a remarkable thing to see a band not only survive for so long, but to also have a surge in popularity this late in their career, with some critics citing their ‘00s albums as some of their best work. The legacy of Bad Religion lives on with 30 Years Live.

As punchy, aggressive, and relevant as they’ve ever been, the album kicks off with 1982’s “F**k Armageddon, This is Hell!” from their second album, How Could Hell Be Any Worse? Remaining true to their roots, lead singer Greg Graffin points his finger at society and the pressure to conform. Of course, punk rock is rooted in the anti-conformist mentality, having an attitude of social independence as well as confidence and self-respect. Bad Religion is triumphant in their abrasive and unforgiving power chord frenzy that leaves the audience cheering madly and no doubt sweating profusely.

The band moves fluidly through time, cherry picking the best of their extensive discography, with crowd-pleasers like “American Jesus”, and “New Dark Ages.” It’s great to hear when a band can move so seamlessly between old and new material without losing a beat with the crowd. For a band with so many years under their belt, they could easily get infected with ‘play the classics’ syndrome, but songs like “The Resist Stance” and “Won’t Somebody,” from 2010’s The Dissent of Man, can hold their own next to their ‘90s anthems like “A Walk” or “Marked.”

 

With 30 shows in 30 nights in 2010, each with 30 song setlists, Bad Religion proved a strong commitment to their fans and what they stand for. The original mp3 version of 30 Years Live was released for free as long as you signed up for the mailing list on their website. This appreciation for their fans shows in the integrity of the music that can be heard on the album.

As a politically charged punk band, Bad Religion’s commentary on the state of society is ever-relevant in this chaotic period of American history. While many punk and post-punk bands write songs about existentialism or confused self-exploration, Bad Religion still burns the flame of dissent, living in the same political vein as their heroes from Black Flag or The Clash. But their presentation never turns to depression or apathy, rather the sonic attack of drummer Brooks Wackerman and bassist Jay Bentley is upbeat and uplifting. Bad Religion has and never will be defeatists, quite the opposite: it is clear they intend to endure and fight as long as they can. Giving up was never an option for these guys.

 

“Who the hell are you to tell me what to do?” cries Greg Graffin in “A Walk”. As a lyricist, he’s always been cynical yet idealistic, and self-identifies as a naturalist rather than an atheist. He sings, “I’m gonna build a world independent and exempt/ all alone I’ll be an empire with no mortgage and no rent.” Graffin has certainly built that empire with Bad Religion’s music and years upon years of touring, writing, and living on his own terms. 30 Years Live, out this Friday on both red and blue hued vinyl, is a celebration of a lifetime of work and one that should not be taken lightly. But Greg and Bad Religion are not content with simple victory laps; they will continue to keep the flame of punk lit, which will inspire strength and endurance in their fans for years to come.

658Bad Religion

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Ben Sparks

A writer born in the suburbs who moved to NYC to be closer to the center of the musical universe. You can find me selling guitars at Sam Ash Music in Brooklyn or mellowing out til 2am at the various jazz clubs in NY. My first live show was Blue Oyster Cult, my favorite live band is The Dillinger Escape Plan, and my favorite live experience was Bjork at Bonnaroo in 2013.

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