cover image Do What You Want: The Story of Bad Religion

Do What You Want: The Story of Bad Religion

Bad Religion and Jim Ruland. Hachette, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-0-306-92222-0

Ruland (My Damage) serves up a heady, revelatory collaboration with the enduring punk band Bad Religion, set to be published on the 40th anniversary of the group’s formation. Ruland begins with the band’s humble origins as a group of teens in the uncool San Fernando Valley and captures how their intelligent lyrics meant to “encourage the audience to not just think, but think critically” helped them stand out in the punk scene. Ruland anchors the group portrait with interviews with three of the founding members: Greg Graffin, vocalist, known as the “punk professor” for his parallel career as an evolutionary biologist; Brett Gurewitz, guitarist and founder of Epitaph Records, which released the band’s records; and Jay Bentley, bassist, responsible for writing each show’s set list. (Unlike most successful touring bands, Ruland explains, Bad Religion would rather challenge themselves and surprise their fans by playing a different set every night.) Readers will appreciate Ruland’s thorough reporting and insight on the various lineup changes over the years, along with his convincing analysis of punk history in which, counter to the consensus of popular rock critics, Ruland argues that bands such as Green Day and Rancid were influenced by the Southern California punk scene, not by Nirvana or Seattle’s grunge music. This testament to the value of hard work and independent thinking offers a thrilling alternative to the conventional rise-and-fall rock narrative. (Aug.)