It’s Only Over When You Give Up: Bad Religion’s Forgotten Masterpiece

Bad Religion are one of those punk rock bands that insist on painting the genre with the ugly brush, releasing tired records that tread water and pander to their pea-brained audience of suburban nitwits and self-imposed social outcasts. For most diehard Bad Religion fans, 1983’s Into the Unknown, the band’s sophomore effort, was a regrettable misstep best left forgotten, but for all the true punks out there this album represented a lost opportunity to push the group in a new direction. After releasing the 1982 debut How Could Hell Be Any Worse? (it couldn’t), Bad Religion channelled their earlier prog rock influences and brought a slew of keyboards into the mix. The resulting product immediately alienated fans and drove bassist Jay Bentley and drummer Pete Finestone to temporarily leave the group, since like most “men” they instinctively feared change. To this day material from Into the Unknown is almost never performed live, and the album was for all intents and purposes buried by the group, save for a 2010 vinyl reissue as part of the 30 Years of Bad Religion box set (Mylanta, where did the time go?). While an admittedly mixed bag, with Into the Unknown Bad Religion at least showed a willingness to “DQ something different,” as the old saying goes, yet the hostile response from fans soon nipped their adventurous spirit in the bud. In 1985 they released the Back to the Known EP, signalling to the world that Bad Religion were returning to the punk by numbers/quasi-rebellious horseshit for which their “radical” supporters would eagerly pony up mommy and daddy’s dough for generations to come. And thank fuck for that, right?

As much as Into the Unknown slays, the hippy-dippy “Time and Disregard” lends credence to anyone out to disown the 1983 incarnation of Bad Religion. Frontman Greg Graffin beats his audience over the head with a sappy tune about the loss of our environment to greedy developers. Take heed, Gregor Robertson! Boasting folky guitars and abrupt transitions to spare, “Time and Disregard” sounds like Joni Mitchell’s 1970 classic “Big Yellow Taxi” if it were pretentiously broken up into four parts and dragged out a whopping seven minutes. The song almost seems like a preview of Graffin’s later career as an academic, although his PhD thesis in zoology is eminently more readable than these stupid lyrics. How did the group pull off such a dull, plodding track, even by Bad Religion standards? Well, “it took time,” my friend, “time and disregard.”

 

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