Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bad Religion: Darwin meets REM on speed

Punk rock gigs in Scotland are rarely held in venues that accommodate more than 200 souls. And while its not unusual to hear political rants between songs (rants in their own right), this is the first time that I've heard a punk band dedicate songs to Charles Darwin and celebrate Scotland's history of producing natural historians, scientists and other philosophers. Then again, this is Bad Religion and their singer is Dr. Greg Graffin, professor in space sciences and palaeontology at UCLA in New York.

The thousand or so science-punks who crowded into Glasgow's ABC venue were treated to a history lesson on their nation's own proud contribution to the enlightenment and modern science. A section of the lyrics in the classic BR song 'No Control' are taken from Edinburgh born geologist James Hutton's work in the 18th Century:

"we find no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end." 

As well as this hymn to theories of cyclical deposition on the seabed, Bad Religion raged through a selection of their multi-syllabic and tuneful classics including American Jesus, Recipe for Hate, Los Angeles is Burning and Sorrow. Strangely, there was no Anesthesia though if your career stretches back 30 years and some 15 albums then one or two classics are bound to slip through the net. The gig was also an opportunity to view accomplished punk guitarist Brian Baker on guitar. This ex-Minor Threat member turned down work with REM to join Bad Religion after his previous melodic punk project Dag Nasty came to an end.

Only precious few can garner our prosperity,
It makes us walk with renewed confidence.
We got a place to go when we die,
And the architect resides right here.
...We've got the American Jesus

Graffin meanwhile has started to supplement his cultural output by publishing a number of books. The latest is 'Evolution and Religion' in which he discusses evolution and how it is approached by devotees of superstition.  The book includes interviews with well-kent voices on the subject such as Richard Dawkins. In the shops on 27 September.
"I've fckn scored at Easter Road"

From Glasgow and Bad Religion to the Edinburgh Fringe and its Edge Festival. Myself and the Frau get a wild card entry into the Pearl and the Puppets gig at new venue The Electric Circus. The band features young lass Katie Sutherland from Kirkintilloch whose voice makes the band sound like the Cranberries. Pearl and her band have already supported the debauched Hibs supporter and friend of Princess Di, Elton John - he who once lit up Easter Road Stadium with his vile 'Candle in the Wind'. Back to Pearl though and unfortunately, the fuzzy indie guitars heard on the radio were absent here and the gig seemed like a family gathering with barely 100 present. The leggy and cute singer already seems to have acquired one or two stalker types. Watching at least two bald and middle-aged men mouthing every lyric while transfixed on the giraffe-like Katie and swaying like twee indie-kids was somewhat disturbing. All in all, the girl's got a great voice and is probably destined for great things but everything is just so god-damn nice. Its about as edgy as a Presbyterian sphere. Get a new backing band too - they look like Mormons, high on Colgate. Give me Bad Religion anyday...

Everybody is talking about the girl
who went and killed the delivery man,
but she looks so kind and gentle,
it just doesn't stand to reason,
I saw her right there just the other night
as stately as a slot machine,
but when she looked my way something mad
as hell came over me,

Anesthesia, Mona Lisa, I've got a little gun,
here comes oblivion,
I never loved you, how did you find me?
the cops will never prove complicity now, Anna......
all good children go to heaven!

I remember your face that august night
when we lied about the beautiful time to come
and that crazy old man who came much to late
and caused a chain reaction,
I've been hanging out there for eleven long years
like a church mouse wondering where the cat has gone,
and looking at you now
is driving me to distraction