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Bad Religion | Age of Unreason

The worst of times bring out the best in the L.A. punk stalwarts on their 17th disc.

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Well, we all knew this was coming. Of course, we didn’t know it would take this long. Or that it would be this good. Age of Unreason, the 17th studio album from eternal L.A. punks Bad Religion, arrives six years after their last disc — and more importantly, two years after the most divisive election in American politics. Not surprisingly, lyricist Greg Graffin and his cohorts have plenty to say about the way things have been going in their homeland the last couple of years. And as usual, they don’t mince words on the fiercely topical disc: Over the course of these 14 pointed and potent mosh-pit anthems, you’ll find references to the “traitor in chief,” “presidents that put kids in cages,” “a maniac” and “a man who received the seal (then) peddled blatant lies and brought back tyranny to divide his people with zeal.” It isn’t all ad hominem attacks: Despite proclaiming “Sometimes there’s no sane reason for optimism,” Graffin also preaches to our better angels, urging unity and tolerance. And speaking of zeal, anyone who’s been paying attention to BR over the past 40 years or so won’t be surprised to hear that all those rabble-rousing messages — and countless more besides — are delivered via the band’s trademark blend of speed-demon punk, razor-sharp metal, soaring melodies and massively stacked harmonies. But they should be impressed to hear how invigorated and laser-focused they sound: These cuts are some of the tightest, toughest songs they’ve written in ages. Perhaps that’s no wonder. After all, it’s no secret that bad times can bring out the best in people. With the intense and crucial Age of Unreason, Bad Religion are simply proving that it applies to bands as well as individuals. Even when you know it’s coming.