Bad Religion - Christmas Songs (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Bad Religion

Christmas Songs (2013)


Throughout their illustrious 34-year career, Bad Religion have remained remarkably consistent compared to their contemporaries. Of their sixteen studio albums, twelve or thirteen of them range from really good to great, and even the other few have their moments. At this point, a large section of the punk scene is fully comfortable giving them carte blanche based on their back catalogue. Which, to a certain degree, might be one reason why Christmas Songs exists.

To their credit, Bad Religion play it relatively straight on Christmas Songs. These versions are faithful, both to the source material and to the vocal-harmony heavy, zealous sound BR have established over the past three decades. As for as intent goes, they nailed it. These versions are also faithful in that, with the exception of "White Christmas" and the band's own "American Jesus," they're traditional, religiously heavy-handed covers. The irony hopefully isn't isn't lost on Bad Religion or their fans.

Still, if there were ever a punk band fit to cover songs of this style, it's Bad Religion; that much is immediately apparent as the expertly harmonized, a capella intro of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" kicks off Christmas Songs. And man, who ever thought the band's patented oozin' aahs would be used for such sorcery like on "O Come All Ye Faithful!" It's musically very impressive, but elicits a very odd feeling.

Like the originals, the covers on Christmas Songs tend to breeze by; all eight run between 1:40 and 2:08 and in this case, brevity is an advantage. It's clear Bad Religion are having fun on "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and "White Christmas," between the pacing and the wild guitar solos. As expected, Brooks Wackerman shines behind the kit on "Little Drummer Boy," perfectly aping the cadence of the original while adding extra oomph. For his part, Greg Graffin gleefully sneers through "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and displays some impressive range on "Angels We Have Heard On High."

Christmas Songs closes with the Andy Wallace mix of "American Jesus," which isn't dramatically different from the Recipe For Hate version. It sounds a little more "produced"; every instrument, especially the drums, sound louder, and the gang vocals toward the song's end are higher in the mix. The song still rips regardless of version, though this mix being officially released will no doubt be a boon for completist Bad Religion fans.

Technically proficient though not meant to be taken super seriously, Christmas Songs is a fun enough, but ultimately non-essential piece of the Bad Religion canon. The most important thing about this album is that 20% of the proceeds are going to SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.)