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Bad Religion at Bristol Academy - live review

Popcore stalwarts persist in preaching SoCal’s punk gospel

Crowd shot

Cal’s punk gospel Bundle it into a sack, weigh it down with stones and lob it into the canal, but the indestructible zombie corpse of punk rock stubbornly refuses to die.

Seeing Bad Religion in 2017, almost 40 years since they formed at high school, is a reminder of how exhilarating that two-minute, three-chord, four-letter formula can still be – but also how limiting. While abrasive, politically charged rock genres have evolved and multiplied, these melodic West Coast punk-pop pioneers remain metaphorically stuck in their garage, ranting against parents and politicians and authority figures in an increasingly ironic suburban-dad manner.

Bad Religion may sound more like The Monkees than the Pistols nowadays, but one key saving grace is Greg Graffin’s wry stage patter; he dedicates Fuck You to all the purists who accuse him of being “not punk enough, too old, too fat”. The band also have a cluster of classic power-pop anthems, detonating moshpit frenzy with the caveman chant 21st Century (Digital Boy), the stupidly infectious Punk Rock Song and the apocalyptic epic Los Angeles Is Burning.

Graffin and co. can clearly do this kind of rabblerousing shtick with ease. But as founding fathers of SoCal punk, they should also feel secure enough to move outside their comfort zone occasionally, adding a little depth and diversity to these samey juvenile riff-slammers.