I’m currently living on Catholic Church property. I read this book while I've been here. I’m not a religious person, but I do have my beliefs and I’m living on this property because I’m doing the type of work (not evangelizing or indoctrinating) where I feel that the ends justify the means. Like I said, I do have my faith, though, and reading Anarchy Evolution has challenged every thread of it.
Greg Graffin is smarter than you’ll probably ever be. If not smarter, he’s probably way better at articulating his smarts. I guess a PhD from Cornell will do that to you. That and an undergraduate and master’s degree from UCLA. Those and 30 years of driving his point straight home via fronting Bad Religion. He’s got some good practice and it almost feels way past due that he’s written something like Anarchy Evolution. What’s great about it, though, is that he has enough experience to cull from, where much like almost any Bad Religion song, there’s no filler. Every line complements the last and will keep you engaged throughout.
Paralleling science with playing in a punk rock band and being involved in its surrounding culture seems like no easy task. Graffin takes it on and conquers it, though. He uses ecological analogies to describe the continued popularity of Bad Religion. He also compares crate diggers, or what he refers to them as “vinyl vermin,” to himself as a scientist early on in his career.
Here’s what he has to say about Bad Religion’s 30 years of success...
“We consider our audience a precious and finite resource... Whenever we prepare to go on tour or produce a new Bad Religion record, we think about the negative aspects of overmilking our fans. We liken this overmilking to overhunting during the late Pleistocene or overfishing off the Peruvian coast. We respect our fans’ intelligence and their desire to see and hear something new and special from us. Without our “core” fans, the band could not continue. We need to cultivate them by offering them new songs and playing live concerts for them with the hope that their enthusiasm for us will grow.”
Here’s another good one, especially for you know-it-all Punknews.org readers...
“Have you ever met anybody with an encyclopedic knowledge of obscure rock bands?... There could be an obscure garage band from England that released just five hundred copies of a single album. None of the rest of us would have ever heard of the band, but the vinyl vermin could tell you more about it than you ever wanted to know... The problem with most vinyl vermin, I've found, is that they let their knowledge of trivia overwhelm their judgment. Despite their encyclopedic learning, I can’t recall having a single discussion with them about whether any of the bands were actually any good... The lesson I learned from the vinyl vermin was that the most important thing about gathering information is what you do with it. The 'secret language' of taxonomy might have made me feel special, but words applied to fossil species (or obscure words) didn't satisfy me.”
It’s like that.
He also includes some amazingly candid stories, in which he is unabashed in his nerdiness, such as one about when he’d just played a show in Brazil and had women lined up at his hotel to sleep with him. Here’s what he did in that situation...
“It was nearly midnight when our tour manager alerted me about my 'guests' downstairs. I was lonesome and far from home, and Rio women are legendary... I was dreaming instead of my planned adventure for the coming morning – seeing the last vestiges of Atlantic rain forest.”
I guess it’s better than, like, dandelions in a field or something, but c'mon man!
But seriously, Greg Graffin has worked with the best in the world of science and seems to be one of them now. He speaks of his time spent conversing and sipping tea with Richard Dawkins, author of the highly acclaimed The God Delusion, as well as with his various experiences with high-ranking scientists and professors in the scientific fields. But, while Anarchy Evolution, which might as well be short for "There Is No God, Nor Intelligent Design, All Things Happen Randomly," comes off like a well-written thesis from start to finish, and it’s not condescending, which is most impressive. The facts are there and they’re there in bold form, but his intention is not to force them down your throat.
He states, “When I create, I feel that I am a participant in the grand pageant of life, a part of the ongoing creative engine of the universe. I don’t know if that feeling is enough to replace the solace of religion in the lives of most people, but it is for me.”