One of the best albums of Christmas music this year comes not from some washed-up crooner, or a snarky metal band mocking the season, but from melodic punk veterans Bad Religion. But while their new record Christmas Songs sounds exultant and triumphant, it's also utterly irreverent — considering the members are singing with forked tongues.
"Half of the fun of doing this album was the impish inclination to be shocking," guitarist Brett Gurewitz told Yahoo Music. "For Bad Religion to do these songs is a desecration. To me, what's really profound is the tragedy that these songs speak of, a yearning for something more and better that might just not be there. And Bad Religion playing these songs is almost like the heathen taking over the pulpit."
Some rock bands that take on Christmas ditties change the titles to mock them. "Deck the Halls," for instance, might be reworked as "Wreck the Halls"; while "White Christmas" could be revamped into "Blight Christmas." However, Bad Religion's take on eight holiday favorites, including "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" is not just sincere, it's serious. There’s even a remix of “American Jesus”; the original was on the 1993 album Recipe For Hate. The recordings are energetic, lovingly constructed, and a heck of a lot more enjoyable than anything by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
"It was great fun to make this record and I do enjoy the songs, but not because I'm religious in the slightest," Gurewitz said. "It’s the same feeling that anyone with an ounce of humanity would feel if they went into the Sistine Chapel. There's that feeling that maybe we're not alone in the universe, and wouldn't it be wonderful if there was something more? And if there is, great; and if there isn't, how much more poignant are these monuments that we've built to the notion. I've always felt a connection to religious songs but not because of the way they portray God. They're designed to move people in a way that would make a grown person believe some kind of a crazy fairy tale, and I think that’s fascinating."
Part of the reason Christmas Songs came out so well was because vocalist Greg Graffin grew up singing many of the tunes, and knew how to best structure them with vocal harmonies and guitar lines that complimented the vocals. "Greg was recognized as being a good singer when he was young," Gurewitz explained. "The principal of his elementary school encouraged him to join statewide contests, which he did very well in and often won singing mostly hymns and church songs."
Bad Religion will donate 20 percent of the profits from Christmas Songs to the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). "We did that to make a statement to those who weren't going to get this record,” Gurewitz said. "The truth is, for those who say this is a cash grab, that’s so absurd. This is not gonna be our biggest record. This is probably going to be our smallest record. But I like what it's going to say for posterity, and I think it’s a decent record that some people will really enjoy."
On December 18, Bad Religion performed "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," on "Conan." Watch the clip below:
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