IRVINE, California — Bad Religion's The Empire Strikes First might be best described as the ideal CD for the car ride home after seeing "Fahrenheit 9/11."
Although a bit more subtle than Michael Moore's controversial documentary (see " 'Fahrenheit 9/11': Overheated, Overstated ... And Great"), the album is a scathing attack on the Bush administration, ranging from the invasion of Iraq to the president's environmental and economic policies.
"Bad Religion didn't just start making political records, all of our records are political records," guitarist Brett Gurewitz said. "The difference on this one is that maybe we're being a little bit more specific of what we're talking about rather than speaking in general terms, and I think that's kind of dictated by the times."
The band's opinions are perhaps most obvious on the album's title track, where singer Greg Graffin addresses Bush's decision to ignore protests and invade Iraq. "Well, we spit and we cursed/ And our bleeding hearts burst," he sings. "But even 10 million souls marching in February/ Couldn't stop the worst/ Couldn't reverse."
Bad Religion address a different problem with the Iraqi invasion in "Let Them Eat War."
" 'Let Them Eat War' is basically a comment on the irony of Bush's support from the working class, being that his policies really benefit the rich and really punish the working poor," Gurewitz explained. "His strongest base seems to be support from the working poor, yet they're the ones getting shipped off to die for an unjust war."
The song, which asks the question, "Can this be what they voted for?," has gotten a strong reaction from fans, although Gurewitz doubts it will be a single.
"It's a catchy song, I would love to hear it on the radio, but I don't know if mainstream media in the current climate would play a song like that," he said. "I think that unfortunately there has been a big crackdown on dissent in this country. And that's a pity because I think dissent is one of the most patriotic, American activities imaginable."
Instead, Bad Religion are promoting "Los Angeles Is Burning," which has been near the top of influential Los Angeles radio station KROQ-FM's playlist for weeks.
"It's a dystopian treatise on environmentalism and the superficiality of society," a straight-faced Gurewitz said of the song before smiling. "No, it's a cool little sing-along number about L.A. We're all from L.A. and it's a song that's about the L.A. fires on the surface and there's a political message in there, too."
Bad Religion are taking The Empire Strikes First on the road this summer via the Vans Warped Tour (see "New Found Glory, Bad Religion Get Warped; Itinerary Set"). Politics will also be prevalent offstage, where the band will promote the Rock Against Bush organization.
"I mean, I can't imagine any rock being for Bush, but I guess there are a couple bands out there," Gurewitz said.