It's hard to sum up a band with such an impressive canon as Bad Religion, but in short their message is to think for yourself. Moreover, frontman Greg Graffin urges you to always be on the lookout for the true agenda concealed behind the establishment's strict rules because, as he wrote when he was just a teenager: "they hide behind their lies that they're helping everyone".
Bad Religion is not one of those bands that depend on their oldest material, but I've chosen Fuck Armageddon for the playlist this week because it's the foundation of an extensive catalogue of empowering hardcore punk rock music that encourages listeners to be individuals and question authority - not out of a sense of posturing punk "no future" nihilism, but for the betterment of us all.
Graffin is a rare character in rock music, having fronted the same band for over 35 years without giving up his academic studies - after graduating high school with his buddies Brett and Jay, fellow founders of Bad Religion, he went on to study as an undergraduate and subsequently complete a masters degree and a PhD in zoology, including lecturing at UCLA and Cornell University, whilst juggling recording and touring. He has written numerous published works, some more populist than others, including 2010's Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science, and Bad Religion in a World Without God, a science and philosophy book controversially combined with a rock autobiography. Meanwhile, the band also formed their own record label, Epitaph, at first to release their own material and by the mid-1990s it had become one of the world's most renowned punk rock labels and the single largest independent record label in the United States.
With a name like Bad Religion it's easy but wrong to assume that this seminal LA hardcore band stands first and foremost for atheism, but the truth is they are opposed not to the concept of spirituality but to the controlling structures of religious organisations. Fuck Armageddon contains more religious references than most of the band's later work, including the line that gave their debut album its title: How Could Hell Be Any Worse? The sleeve is a shot of the Los Angeles skyline taken from the site of the Hollywood Cross and the photograph is drenched in scarlet, turning it into a very unambiguous vision of hell on Earth.
Musically, Fuck Armageddon stars off with a new wave bass line and ghostly guitar riff that reminds me of A Forest by The Cure, before dissolving into a frenzied punk rock thrash that sounds like LA's answer to Alternative Ulster by Stiff Little Fingers.
For the playlist I have chosen the live version from the 1997 album Tested, because Graffin's voice had by then matured, giving the song a little more gravitas in place of the pure adolescent rage of the original. If this version isn't available in your country, check out the original album version instead.
If you like this, I urge you to check out their all time classic 21st Century Digital Boy, the anthem to US nationalistic hypocrisy American Jesus and Sorrow the elegant retort to anyone who accuses Bad Religion of failing to have a spiritual side.
You can learn more about Bad Religion here
About the curator: Jon Ewing
After graduating from the University of Keele in England with a degree in Politics and American Studies, Jon worked as editor of a music and entertainment magazine before spending several years as a freelance writer and, with the advent of the internet, a website designer, developer and consultant. He lives in Reading, home to one of the world's most famous and long-running music festivals, which he has attended every year since 1992.