Sound — 8
Bad Religion formed in 1979 and have made their niche in music history for being an "intelligent" punk band, often using their songs for religious, social and political commentary. They have previously released 16 full length albums, 2 live albums, 2 EPs, and 2 live concert DVDs. They definitely have left their footprint. While they have had a changing lineup over the years with Graffin being the sole member to remain throughout, the current incarnation of the band includes two other founding members of the band – Brett Gurewitz and Jay Bentley. "Christmas Songs" is the band's 17th full length album, though with only 9 tracks it clocks in at a measly 19 minutes. Eight of the nine tracks are straight-up Christmas classics played with a twist of punk rock, and the ninth track is a remix of the track "American Jesus."
The album opens up with "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," which starts out much like the classic, but about 30 seconds in Bad Religion puts their spin on it. They take advantage of a lot of false stops on the track, which gives it a cool vibe. "O Come All Ye Faithful" is up next, which is pretty much like a sped up heavier version of the original that takes advantage of vocal harmonies and actually works really well with Graffin's vocals. "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" probably works the best after the punk rock treatment, especially with the little guitar melody going on. "White Christmas" has a very strong Ramones-esque feel to it, like you expect to hear "Twenty Twenty Twenty-four hours ago-oh-oh." They actually throw in a little guitar solo on this track, too, which I thought was an interesting touch (even though the solo was less than 10 seconds or so). "Little Drummer Boy" is almost epic with a machine-gun guitar riff and pounding drums. This is definitely one of my favorite tracks from the album. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" really feels like Bad Religion more than a lot of the tracks on the album, and oddly enough reminded me of "Stranger Than Fiction," and I think mostly because of the way the vocal harmonies are utilized on this track. "What Child Is This?" is probably the only one of these songs where I haven't heard the original before, and is it just me or does this song have some strong "Greensleeves" vibes? Is the original like that? The guitar melody was pretty awesome on this track. "Angels We Have Heard on High" is just a pretty standard punk rock treatment of the original, and it works but doesn't really stand out on the album. The album closes out with "American Jesus (Andy Wallace Mix)," which is actually a good track to wash the Christmas out of my ears. While the album is pretty short at under 20 minutes, Graffin obviously knew what they were doing because the album ended before the novelty of punk rock Christmas songs gets old. For a Christmas album, it is pretty cool. My rating is going to be on the scale of other Christmas albums I've heard - it would be too hard to compare this to a non-Christmas album.
Lyrics — 7
Bad Religion utilizes their interesting vocal harmonies like they have on previous albums, and it actually works with these Christmas classics. Graffin's voice really works surprisingly well on these songs, which was shocking. I'm not really going to try to revisit the lyrics on these Christmas classics because anybody who has been in a mall in December probably knows them all by heart. Not a lot to say about the actual lyrics on an album like this.
Overall Impression — 7
While this album fits very oddly with the rest of the Bad Religion albums, it is a really run album. If you've got a relative who insists on holiday music around Christmas time, you could surprise them and bring this album over and pop it in. My favorite songs from the album would have to be "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," "Little Drummer Boy" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." My least favorite track on the album would have to be "Angels We Have Heard on High," because it didn't really stand out much to me. Overall, for what this album is, it is pretty cool. I'm going to have to rate this album in my mind on a special "Christmas album" scale, and on that scale give it a 7.