Saturday, December 19, 2015

25 Holiday Records: 11: Christmas Songs by Bad Religion

We're counting down to Christmas Day with a list of 25 records we have in the shop at Royal Cat Records! Why? Because vinyl rules!

Our next record is a modern punk rock Xmas tribute!


Christmas Songs
by Bad Religion

Kudos to this band for tackling some VERY traditional yuletide carols on this record. We never really thought about it before, but the whole punk thing seems kind of at odds with tradition and history in a way. At least, that's how punk situated itself back in the 70s and early 80s. By the time Bad Religion got around to recording this, punk had become pretty mainstream, more of an "alternative lifestyle" than a transgressive art movement or DIY challenge to the status quo of the music industry. Formed in 1980, Bad Religion were part of that first wave of U.S. west coast punk, so nowadays they are something like the elder statesmen of the music. Their music hasn't changed much in all that time and they sort of represent to us what Jello Biafra once called the "fonzie punks" --those frozen in time punks who think the music should look and sound the same way, always.

That's not to say we can't appreciate what Bad Religion does. At Royal Cat we like to bob our heads along and slam dance to "traditional" punk just as much as the next old geezer. And why shouldn't practitioners of this lifestyle have holiday music to share with their kids while they wait for the tattooed and pierced Punk Santa Claus to shred down the chimney on his skateboard? So it only makes sense that even crusty old punkers should have an xmas record like this for themselves. For many years, most of the punkers we knew were so anti-establishment that they wouldn't even admit to liking the holidays one little bit. If you pressed them, they would maybe admit that The Pogues' "Fairytale of New York" or Miles Davis' "Blue Xmas" or The Fall's "No Xmas for John Keys" or some other songs about drunks and junkies and capitalism were the only Christmas songs they liked. Now we have this, which is just as bland and background-y as most other offerings of the genre.

So why did this get made? No big deal, the band was just nostalgic for Christmas and thought they could sell some units. According to The Village Voice, lead singer Greg Graffin is a former choirboy: "I remember fun singing events," Graffin says of his childhood performances. "It wasn't about a religious feeling or celebrating a sacred time. It was just really fun performing these songs."

It's a pretty boring record. Inoffensive. All the songs sound the same. Most of them are actually religious. Two have angels in the title and several mention Jesus. They sound very earnest! The presentation is pretty straight-ahead super-fast punk. The band just blows through these, like a cartoonish marching band on speed. But the whole thing is kind of awkward. The machine-gun drums only make sense on "Little Drummer Boy," for instance. The boys do some nice "ah"-ing backing vocals on "What Child is This" and a couple of others. There are some lame guitar solos. Mostly by-the-numbers, highly-polished run throughs (the band is tight). The only standout is the band's original composition, "American Jesus," which is kind of a political, anti-consumerist rant.

Track List:

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
O Come All Ye Faithful
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
White Christmas
Little Drummer Boy
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
What Child Is This?
Angels We Have Heard On High
American Jesus (Andy Wallace Mix)

We've got it on vinyl in the shop!

Check it out:


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