Bad Religion - All Ages (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Bad Religion

All Ages (1995)

Epitaph Records

Like so many punk bands in the mid-'90s, Bad Religion jumped ship from an independent record label, Epitaph Records, to a major label when they signed to Atlantic Records. While they certainly weren’t the first, or last, band to make this transition, it is suffice to say there was more significance in their move than in their peers. While Green Day, Jawbreaker and The Offspring were all huge bands on their respective labels they were just bands on that record label. When Bad Religion left Epitaph, they were leaving a record label that had been founded for the sole purpose of distributing their music. A move that would be akin to any Ian Mackaye project being released on a major record label or Jello Biafra putting out his next release through Sony BMG. While Brett Gurewitz cited needing more time to run his record label as his reason for parting ways with the band, one could also point to his growing personal issues as well as a feeling the band had abandoned their home for financial purposes. Going so far as to directly accuse the band of selling out following his departure from the band after Stranger than Fiction was released the following year.

In the wake of the band leaving the label, a compilation album, All Ages was released. It collected the bands most well-known material from their first six albums, omitting songs from their second album Into the Unknown and their seventh album, Recipe for Hate. While the omission of material from Into the Unknown shouldn’t be a surprise, as the album was about as well received as the Star Wars Holiday Special , the omission of “American Jesus” likely had to do with Atlantic Records owning American distribution rights to the song after re-releasing Recipe for Hate.

There’s no need to review the music on this album in an explanatory sense. Let’s face it, liking Bad Religion is like owning a copy of Energy by Operation Ivy … almost everyone who likes punk rock has done it at one point or another. While the album serves as a great entry level album for a new Bad Religion fan, I won’t lie, it was the first one I bought. It also speaks to how punk mentality was changing even on independent record labels in the mid-'90s. There was no denying that a scene that was once known for cops breaking up shows, anti-social and nihilistic lyrics, and a strong stance against marketability and careerism had become a mainstream force. Hell, The Offspring would release the greatest selling album ever on an independent record label just a year earlier. And one could say that All Ages may have been a bit of a cash grab rather than an honest attempt to document the band's early work on a single album. Sure punk bands had done things similar to this before, Minor Threat’s Complete Discography comes to mind. The major difference between that release and this one being that Minor Threat had been broken up for six years when Dischord released their compilation album.

Bad Religion was and continues to be an important and powerful band, while they’ve certainly released their fair share of less than stellar albums. They can also, likely, be credited with releasing more “classics” than many of the bands from their era. However, to call All Ages influential would be a misstep. As was previously stated, it’s a great foot in the door for new fans. Though 20 years after its release, used CDs and the internet allow fans wanting to get into the band to pick up their entire discography for slightly less than what a new CD would have cost when the album was first released. Downloading services,like iTunes and streaming audio services like Spotify and even YouTube make finding out about the band an almost instantaneous process. While it may have been a noteworthy release, worthy of spending money on when it came out, 20 years later its main purpose is for people looking to complete the entire discography.

Is every song on this album good? Yes, without a doubt. Are there a couple live songs on here that you can’t find anywhere else? Sure, though the songs themselves are simply live recordings of previously released material. Are greatest hits albums released in the middle of a band’s career simply a cash grab on someone’s behalf? I’m yet to find an exception to this theory. Do you need to own this album? Honestly, I can’t think of a reason you shouldn’t just buy their first seven albums and make a mix of your favorite 22 songs off of them. It’s not that the album isn’t good, all one has to do is check out its source material to know it will be, it’s just that I can’t think of a good reason to say the album is in anyway essential … other than Bad Religion released it. And championing an album based on the band's legacy, and not anything of substance, wreaks of everything that makes rock journalism insufferable.