Bad Religion’s newest album Age of Unreason tries to meaningfully point out problems of today, but too often merely proclaims that things used better back in the day. The lyrics of “End of History” proclaim that “nostalgia is an excuse for stupidity” and this album feels overly nostalgic. It is steeped with a longing for a better time when reason ruled, punk was skatepunk, and Bad Religion was still angry at something. The more important question, “where do you really want to be at the end of history?” is only asked, but given no further thought or suggestion. Though the music is clear and the vocals melodic, much of the album seems tired, repetitive, and uninspiring. Despite being an easy listen, it does little besides saying “yup, that’s a Bad Religion song.”
The album puts a lot of hope in the power of reason. The lyrics reference various philosophical or historical figures and ideas to point towards a better future. Looking towards an idyllic past, Age of Unreason tries to hope for a time when reason will again rules all. It is only this current time that is messed up enough for a rebellion to be effective. For a critique against unreason in our time, the album seems to fall into the very rut that it attacks. No time is spent exploring any single idea. The album moves at breakneck pace through its fourteen tracks spending as few as 64 seconds extolling the virtues of reason. The examples found throughout the album turn to mere cliches and lack any substance that would seem to drive any real change.
The style of songs fall under two distinct group. One type sounds like any other Bad Religion song: the singing is excellent and the instruments smooth. These follow the same structure consisting of several verses, then a short guitar solo, and punctuated with an outro verse at the end. The other kind tries to be anything else. They are jarringly different and make for a confusing listen. The tempo of the tracks is typically thoughtful and as drawn out as it could be in such short tracks. The thought out pace of the songs adds power to the message when done properly like “Big Black Dog,” “My Sanity,” and “Do the Paranoid Style.” However, there is no feeling of urgency to protest in the songs. At its worst, the speed, like “Faces of Grief” just confuses any continuity in the album.
“Old Regime” unwittingly sums up the album when it cries out the “new aristocracy smells like the old regime.” The new album sounds remarkably similar prior work from the band. The songs try hard to make the listener think but in the end merely proselytize, repeating standard refrains. Impact aside, there are enough tracks to warrant listening to. Fans of Bad Religion can be happy with songs like “Since Now” and “Chaos From Within. The melodic vocals, catchy at times, are always smooth and inviting. The mostly steady tempo helps the album maintain power as it pushes through tracks. The album is short and sometimes feels rushed, but at least you never have to ask “how much longer will this go on.”