Many years ago we all dreamed of a world in which punk rock--real punk rock--topped the charts, saturated the airwaves, and got in everyone's face. Well, it's happened--Green Day and Offspring are selling in the millions, and more bands keep coming. The latest astoundingly successful entry is Bad Religion, a dozen-year-old punk outfit led by Brett Gurewitz, capo of Epitaph, the label boasting the largest-selling punk record ever with Offspring's close-to-triple-platinum Smash. Considered a mainstay in their tiny and unconcerned little corner of punk paradise, Bad Religion would be a cool group by any measure--tuneful but uncompromising, obviously not idiots. But when their mugs are all over MTV and you can't turn on a radio without hearing "Stranger Than Fiction," "Infected," or "21st Century Digital Boy," you start to hold the band to a different standard. It's unfair, but that's life. So let me say that Gurewitz and the band's other songwriter, singer Greg Graffin, make some of the dopiest contributions to adolescent philosophizing in the history of rock 'n' roll. Here's a typical lyric: "Individuals run for cover / For the multitudes of thoughtless clones have reached a critical mass." Here's another: "When I slept with stony faces on the riverbank / My angeldevil reveler shook me desperately in dying." Also, guys, if you're going to name drop, spell Ernest Hemingway right on the lyric sheet, OK? Still, the new Stranger Than Fiction has a bunch of keen tunes, and moment after moment of punk ineffability. NB: Gurewitz, overwhelmed with corporate duties, isn't on the current tour. Tuesday, 6:30 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine; 275-6800 or 559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dan Winters.