As we approach the ten-year mark since the last time seminal punk band Bad Religion paid us a visit here in Ottawa, I reminisce about that July evening in 2012. I’ll always remember lead singer Greg Graffin chirping the crowd because the Los Angeles Kings had just won the Stanley Cup. Ostensibly Los Angeles fans, the band could appreciate the cultural significance of such a statement in Canada’s capital. But I know that underneath their southern California loyalties, they have an unspoken fascination with our Senators. Because I’ll never get to pick their brains about this closet curiosity, I present instead this totally unsolicited pop culture crossover article whereby I consider current members of the Ottawa Senators as Bad Religion albums. Is this the most niche piece of writing to ever appear on this site? Probably yes!
I should take this opportunity to give full credit to Bragg who inspired this format back in 2018. I love how pertinent some of the quotes from this article remain four years later:
Either way; you, an Ottawa Senators fan, could use a little levity as this garbage dump season reaches its miserable, stupid conclusion.
I’ve wanted to write this article for a long time. So in that spirit, please enjoy this distraction while we await the trade deadline and no uncertain online hockey drama (Pierres, please don’t trade any of these players and force me to revise this).
How Could Hell Be Any Worse? - Thomas Chabot
Somehow we as fans occasionally overlook the foundation when staring at the edifice right before our eyes. Maybe Chabot doesn’t have quite the same shine as some of our newer toys, but he sets the tone and everything starts with him. Just like Bad Religion’s debut LP, he still brings it every single time. I’ll also include the two EPs often packaged with this record because Tommy plays big minutes so he definitely gets the bonus tracks. Fun fact: this album’s run time barely surpasses Chabot’s ATOI.
Into the Unknown - Colin White
A record and a man overlooked by critics, controversial among fans, and absolute favourites of yours truly. Sometimes you need to set aside all of your expectations and embrace the thing in and of itself. White, like this ode to King Crimson and Kurt Vonnegut, belongs to the university campus of Senators fans. Challenge yourself. Open up your mind. Find beauty in the absurd.
Suffer - Tim Stützle
Like this 27-minute masterpiece, I don’t need to overstate the case here. This album helped launch the skate punk explosion of the 1990s (Dag Nasty, Naked Raygun, Government Issue, ALL, and SNFU also released seminal melodic hardcore albums in 1988) and our beautiful son rides the crest of an exciting wave of German-born hockey superstars. You can’t mistake that visceral feeling when experiencing such greatness. Suffer and Timmy both hold a dark, mysterious, and compelling dominion over us that only seems to intensify with time.
No Control - Brady Tkachuk
If you go to a Bad Religion show, then you’re gonna hear some songs from No Control. If you go to the CTC, then you’re going to see a lot of number-seven jerseys. These two fanbases embrace the fast, chaotic, and unrelenting. Elegant in their simplicity and somehow never running out of steam, they both hit like a freight train. Insert obligatory THPS reference here.
Against the Grain - Josh Norris
Forming a spiritual triumvirate with the two previous entries on this list, neither the record nor the man do anything drastically different; they’ve simply perfected the art. When you hold a certain degree of proficiency, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Fans and critics alike can agree: it doesn’t get much better than this.
Generator - Drake Batherson
The arrival of Bobby Schayer marked a transition from Bad Religion’s rawest years into more diverse musical territory to explore even darker and more mysterious corners. Batherson (Ottawa’s “Generator” of offence) also has a more mature and refined quality about his game. While he doesn’t necessarily play with the same edge as his linemates, he has an undeniable presence and he takes command of the ice when he gets in the zone. He’s steady and will remain unperturbed by the joy and the madness that he encounters everywhere he turns.
Recipe for Hate - Connor Brown
Really can you think of a better recipe than snagging an underappreciated dude from your arch nemesis and watching him grow into the exact type of dude they sorely miss? Brown has a few years on most of the other Sens on this list so he gets the ultimate “gateway” Bad Religion album. Maybe not the fastest or flashiest, but you can’t go wrong with a classic.
Stranger than Fiction - Erik Brännström
Context matters: you can feel betrayed because your favourite independent band signed a recording contract with a major label, you can feel betrayed because your favourite hockey team traded away their best player. Maybe fans should react that way. But I don’t recommend depriving yourself of something you enjoy because of an old grudge. I prefer supporting underground labels. I miss Mark Stone. But I also particularly enjoy the second side of this record and I think Bonestorm has a hell of a breakout pass. Plus if you really want, you can get a European import of the album (from an independent label) and blame your Stone woes on management/ownership like the rest of us.
The Gray Race - Artem Zub
Brett Gurewitz’s (acrimonious) departure should have shortened Bad Religion’s career substantially but the band pulled off a miracle, recruiting former Minor Threat, Government Issue, Dag Nasty guitarist Brian Baker who reinvigorated the band (in the case of The Gray Race especially) saving fans from some very bleak post-Gurewitz years. In the same fashion, the Ottawa Senators’ 2020-21 defence should have stunk even worse had Artem Zub not magically appeared out of the ether. Who says you can’t pluck an NHL-ready, top-four defender out of thin air? The same folks who say you can’t land one of the most respected guitarists in hardcore at the peak of his powers. Come on over and play Crazy Taxi.
No Substance - Jacob Bernard-Docker
I know I probably shouldn’t like this album or “The Law Firm” as much as I do but my loyalties get the best of me. Whether outsiders have time for these entries and regardless of fans who don’t really see the potential, I have a soft spot. This record has just enough memorable tunes and JBD just seems like such a cool cat.
The New America - Chris Tierney
Both of these things definitely exist. I lament that Schayer’s drumming career (LTIR) had to end on such an underwhelming album and that Cobra’s career trajectory fell off so drastically after departing California.
The Process of Belief - Alex Formenton
He could go supersonic. When Brooks Wackerman joined Bad Religion behind the kit, it opened up new musical possibilities for the band and this (along with the return of Gurewitz) led to some of the tightest—and fastest—songs in their catalogue. It seems like some folks get fed up hearing about Formenton’s speed because of his perceived lack of finish. Don’t count me among them. Formenton doesn’t ever need to prove himself to you.
The Empire Strikes First - Shane Pinto
After half a decade of lean, major label years, it seemed improbable that Bad Religion could produce another classic album to rival their early work. Well not only did they create a masterpiece with “Process,” they doubled down and wrote one of the definitive punk albums of the W. administration in “Empire.” In the same way, when experts felt certain that Ottawa would strike out with Pinto, he just keeps finding a way to stay relevant.
New Maps of Hell - Lassi Thomson
A lot like JBD, I think I like Thomson far more than I should. I never hear anyone outside of Ottawa say anything positive about him and I probably have my own biases to blame for my admiration of the Finnish defender. And much like No Substance, I feel like I enjoy this album way more than the average fan. It doesn’t often come up in “Best of” lists or discussions and yet I listen to it all the time. Some people and some things just resonate with you.
The Dissent of Man - Filip Gustavsson
Two cases of “I thought I would come around by now” but also “they might still grow on me.” Maybe this record will mature like so many of its predecessors, but after a decade it still sounds kind of flat. Maybe Gus will put it together at the professional level but fans have reason to feel impatient. We’ve had fleeting moments of hope but we’ve also felt some disappointment given the build-up.
Bonus: All Ages - Nick Paul
In hopes that this piece wouldn’t age like milk, I tried to avoid pending free agents and grizzled vets, but Nick Paul, as they say, “Does it all.” We love number-13 around these parts so the “Best of” compilation goes to the big fella with two first names.
True North - Reader’s Choice
I got to have most of the fun here (hooray for me) and I’ll leave the comments section open to anyone feeling intrepid enough to come up with suggestions for Age of Unreason, Tested Live, and Christmas Songs (?!). I know I left some beloved Sens off the list and you can serve them the justice they deserve. You are jurisprudence. I should apologize here for not including more ten-cent words in this article. Alas, we can’t all have a PhD from Cornell.