SOUNDTRACK: BAD RELIGION-Christmas Songs (2013).
There’s been plenty of press about this Bad Religion Christmas album. Greg and Brett have been interviewed on NPR’s Weekend Edition.
So what is a Bad Religion fan to make of this disc? Bad Religion has, as its name states, no tolerance for any religion, especially Christianity. So what the hell?
Well, as anyone who has grown up in America knows, these songs are ubiquitous. But more importantly, these songs are quite good. So why not give a try at punking them up. What I appreciate about his album is that the band plays these songs absolutely straight. Whatever their beliefs, they do not mess with the songs. (I have absolutely enjoyed mocking versions of these songs, and I have many many goofy versions of them, but Bad Religion has never been goofy, so they sound like real Bad Religions songs–lyrics aside).
And so we get fifteen minutes (seriously) of great respectful punk renditions of traditional religious and secular Christmas songs. In true Bad Religion form, the songs barely make it over 2 minutes long, but the lyrics are completely understandable and their harmonies are outstanding. (Bad Religion has always had great harmonies but they are used to wonderful effect here). Their version of “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing” is amazing (even if I find it unsettling that some of his rhymes are weird (like that he pronounces it BethleHAIM to rhyme with proclaim). The acapella opening is really impressive (Brett was in choir as a kid). When the band hits the line where the drums play a counterpoint (for just one line), it’s really fantastic. “O Come, All Ye Faithful” is just straight out punk. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” features some great backing vocals. The Ramones-feel of “White Christmas” is a weird touch, but their delivery is spot on.
“The Little Drummer Boy” (a song I’m not terribly fond of in general) is quite good in this rendition–especially after hearing Brett say how complicated the measures are in this song. It’s hard to do a bad version of “Angels We Have Heard on High” when you can harmonize as well as this band does. And their version is great (I love the backing vocals on this as well). Theirs is certainly the most aggressive version of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” I’ve ever heard (and I rather like it). And “What Child is This?” has a solid riff to start with (it’s interesting to hear it on the guitar). And again, the chorus is stellar.
They finish off the album with a remix of “American Jesus” a very anti-religion song (and perhaps a palette cleanser). I didn’t notice how it is a remix, but it still sounds good.
Of course if you don’t like punk, you won’t like this, but I was really impressed with the care they put into these renditions.
[READ: December 24, 2013] Bad Santas
This book looks at the history of Christmas, but specifically at the creatures who caused mayhem and violence during the long winter holidays. Indeed, our “traditional” Christmas celebration is a relatively new construct (you will be shocked to see how new it actually is).
In Greece, during the twelves days of Christmas, goblins called Kallikantzaoi would steal things, destroy property and even abduct children. In Finland, an evil goat called Joulupukki would demand gifts and punish evil children (he has since been turned into basically Santa Claus.
And in parts of Italy and Germany, the witch Perchta would climb down the chimney. But instead of giving presents to children, she would rip out their intestines and replace them with straw and stone. (There’s a wonderful doll of Perchta here). And anyone who has recently since the Grimm Christmas episode now knows of Krampus who is not only a real Christmas creature, (meaning Grimm didn’t make him up), he is still active and you can get Krampus cards.
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