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Bad Religion is an American punk rock band, formed in Southern California in 1980 by Jay Bentley, Greg Graffin, Brett Gurewitz and Jay Ziskrout. They brought the revival of punk rock during the late 1980s and influenced a large number of other punk and rock musicians throughout their career. In the 28 years since its inception, Bad Religion had numerous lineup changes, and Graffin has been the only constant member. They are particularly known for their sophisticated use of style, metaphor, vocabulary, imagery, and vocal harmonies, whether reflective on matters of personal feelings or of personal or social responsibility.
To date, Bad Religion has released fourteen studio albums, two EPs, three compilation albums, one live recording, and two DVDs. Their 1988 album Suffer has been regarded by some critics as one of the most important hardcore punk albums of all time although it was not charted in Billboard. Bad Religion rose to fame with their 1994 major-label release Stranger Than Fiction, which produced their well-known hit singles "21st Century (Digital Boy)" and "Infected". With Gurewitz leaving the band in 1994, Bad Religion declined in popularity and poor record sales continued until the release of The New America in 2000. Gurewitz returned to the fold in 2001 and contributed to the band's last three albums.
The band's major influences stemmed from earlier punk acts such as The Ramones, The Adolescents, Black Flag, The Germs, and The Sex Pistols. Outside of the punk scene, their influences ranged from Elvis Costello, The Jam, and Nick Lowe to authors like Jack Kerouac. Greg Graffin called his influences "pop sounding rock tunes that were not necessarily commercial."
Many of Bad Religion's songs are about different social ills, although they make attempts not to ascribe the causes of these ills to any single person or group. Greg Graffin believes that the current political situation in the United States can make it difficult to voice these concerns, as he doesn't want to feed the polarization of viewpoints. The band doesn't always restrict political commentary exclusively to metaphor. Brett Gurewitz pulled no punches when he attributed his anger towards US President George W. Bush as the major inspiration for The Empire Strikes First. "Our whole album is dedicated to getting Bush out of office. I'm not a presidential scholar but I don't think you'll find a worse president in the history of the United States. He's probably one of the worst leaders in the history of world leaders. I just hate the guy."
In 1981, the band released their eponymous debut EP on the newly-formed label, Epitaph Records, which was managed and owned by Gurewitz. 1982 saw the release of their first full-length album, How Could Hell Be Any Worse? thus gaining a sizable following. In 1983, the band released Into the Unknown, a keyboard-driven progressive rock album that was enormously unpopular with the band's core fanbase. It is now officially out of print, after almost all of the 10,000 copies were surreptitiously sold out of the warehouse. The record has since become a collector's item, and has also gained acceptance from some fans.
Also in 1983, the Mystic Records compilation album "The Sound Of Hollywood, Vol. 2" was released featuring two Bad Religion songs- "Every Day" and "Waiting For The Fire" which continued in the mellow acoustic/keyboard direction of the previous album. These songs are exclusive to this vinyl-only release which has been out of print for many years.
In 1984, Greg Hetson of Circle Jerks fame, who had played the guitar solo for "Part III" on How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, teamed up with Graffin on the song "Running Fast" for the soundtrack of the film Desperate Teenage Lovedolls.
In 1985, Brett Gurewitz released a 5-song EP on Epitaph Records under the name The Seeing Eye Gods. This psychedelic influenced record is long out of print and has never been released on CD.
The band slowly reformed out of the 1984 Back to the Known lineup when Greg Graffin called Jay Bentley and asked him to return. The reunited band released Suffer in 1988, cementing their comeback in the punk community. Not only is this album often cited as one of their very best by fans, but it is credited with "saving" the Southern California punk rock scene by fans and Bad Religion's contemporaries alike.No Control (1989) and Against the Grain (1990) further increased the band's popularity, followed by Generator (1992). Bobby Schayer joined the band as a replacement of drummer Pete Finestone.
With alternative rock and grunge breaking into the mainstream, Bad Religion left Epitaph Records for Atlantic Records and quickly re-released their seventh full-length studio album Recipe for Hate (1993) on the major label. Also in 1993, the band recorded the song "Leaders and Followers" for the soundtrack for the Kevin Smith film, Clerks. Their next album, 1994's Stranger Than Fiction, subsequently became their most successful release, scoring hits with "Infected" and a re-recording of "21st Century (Digital Boy)", which was originally released on Against the Grain. To date, Stranger Than Fiction remains another one of Bad Religion's best known albums, with sales continuing thirteen years after its release. On March 4, 1998, it also became the band's first RIAA certified gold record for sales of over half a million in the U.S.
Before the release of Stranger Than Fiction, Gurewitz left the band. He officially cited the reason for his departure as the increasing amount of time he was needed at Epitaph as The Offspring became one of the biggest bands of the mid-1990s, but it was well known that his departure was not on good terms. As tensions increased, Graffin sang alternate lyrics during concerts such as "I want to know where Brett gets his crack" or "I want to know why Gurewitz cracked," on the song "Stranger Than Fiction".
Gurewitz was replaced as a guitarist by Brian Baker, a former member of bands such as Minor Threat and Dag Nasty. Since Greg Graffin and Gurewitz had split songwriting duties, Graffin was now Bad Religion's primary songwriter.
Bad Religion continued recording without Brett Gurewitz and released three more albums for Atlantic, starting with The Gray Race (1996), produced by former Cars frontman, Ric Ocasek. The album scored a minor U.S. radio hit with the song "A Walk" as well as the European release of "Punk Rock Song" The band found its greatest success in Europe, where the album reached the German music charts at #6 and score the band their first European gold record for sales in Scandinavia alone.
The majority of Bad Religion's lyrics are written by either Greg Graffin or Brett Gurewitz. Only on rare occasions will they co-write a song. Other band members, such as Jay Bentley, also contribute songs, but these constitute only a small percentage of the Bad Religion catalog.
Brett Gurewitz acknowledges attempting to emulate The Germs singer Darby Crash early on in Bad Religion's lyrical style. "He wrote some intelligent stuff, and didn't shy away from the vocabulary, which I thought was cool." In addition to their use of unusually sophisticated vocabulary for a punk band, Bad Religion is also known for their frequent use of vocal harmonies, which they refer to in their album liner notes as the "oozin aahs". They took their cues from The Adolescents, in the way that they used three-part harmonies. Bassist Jay Bentley says, "Seeing The Adolescents live, it was so brilliant. So, in a way, the Adolescents influenced us into saying we can do it too, because look, they're doing it."
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