Published Sep 30, 2010SoCal punk rockers Bad Religion are going through some severe changes.
"It wasn't really planned to be this way," admits bassist Jay Bentley in a recent Exclaim! interview, referencing the sonic alterations on latest effort The Dissent of Man, an album that finds them reaching two mileposts: their 30th anniversary and 15th studio album.
Bentley refers to how the album is a drastic shift for the sextet, rounded out by vocalist Greg Graffin, guitarists Greg Hetson, Brian Baker and Brett Gurewitz, and drummer Brooks Wackerman. Revered for rarely diverging from their no-nonsense course over three decades - despite an oddball sophomore album that quickly taught them the value of sticking to those aforementioned guns - The Dissent of Man takes a few unexpected turns, embracing the diversity of rock'n'roll, emotionally charged lyrics and even piano. As Bentley reveals, though, he's proud of the fresh angle.
"Greg [Graffin] and I were talking about maybe it's time to move on into wherever we are now, away from the past 30 years," he explains. "When I hear the record, I really feel [it's] representative of us. I know that's weird but it feels exactly where we are in our lives, which is good. That's the same feeling we had with How Could Hell Be Any Worse? , Suffer  and The Process of Belief , four records that are more indicative of where we are in our lives than anything else. That's where this record is now."
Such a head space is a far cry from a decade ago when Bentley felt Bad Religion had run their course and were on an inescapable path of implosion due to stagnancy, frustration with life on a stifling major label and the resultant 2000 effort The New America, an album he regularly derides as uninspired and that nearly destroyed the band.
"I think the feeling around The New America and when it came out was that it was the end of something," he reflects. "I can't explain it but you kind of diagnose this thing and it's terminal. You think there's no way to fix it. It just didn't feel right so being down that far and when Bobby [Schayer, drummer] left, it was just the end. Greg and I talked about how we could pick it up again and we just couldn't do it. So when Brett came back around and said, 'Come back to Epitaph, we need to find a drummer and here's Brooks,' we made The Process of Belief and that sort of started it all over again. In a way, the best part of it was that the expectations of our band were so minimal, putting out The Process of Belief... nobody expected that. It was like, 'Take that!'
"I remember having this feeling of being so fucking angry that the band was gonna end on this wimpy little squeak; not really feeling that all the things we'd accomplished... we'd fucked it up so bad. So yeah, there was this sort of Revenge of the Nerds attitude going in with Process. We wanted to just make the greatest rock record ever. Not that it was or wasn't but it felt good to get back to where we were around Suffer; where our mindset was."
Carrying that invigorated mentality on for almost a decade now, Bentley feels The Dissent of Man is the culmination of internal peace, comfort with the band's status in life and relief that their modest exploration has continued the trend of formidable albums.
At that, he reflects on how this release is more than just a subtle tweak to the Bad Religion mandate. It's yet another confirmation that after years of spiralling into a state of predictability and forgettable releases, the band is on a greater course, and The Dissent of Man could be the perfect capstone to their dynamic career. Not that they're planning on calling it quits any time soon, though. In fact, Bentley admits that he has no clue as to what the band's future may hold.
"Honestly, I've had that feeling [of each album being the perfect ending note] since we put out The Process of Belief. After that 'redeeming record,' everything has just been gravy. Getting on a major label, having management and doing all those things normal bands do every day worked against us. It led us down these paths of doing what everyone else was doing. It sucked; was not a good ride at all. We're okay now and we're having fun. We're not really sure where everything will end up tomorrow. We don't think about it, the next tour or record... In term of the future goal? Nothing. It's just to be happy."
The Dissent of Man is out now on Epitaph. All week, the record is streaming here on Exclaim.ca. For the band's tour dates, head to the band's MySpace for the complete schedule.