One of the best things about Christmas is the constant flow of new music each and every year. One of the surprising standouts for HERC among 2013's myriad offerings is punk rock veterans Bad Religion and their simply titled Christmas Songs. It is the band's 17th album in their 34 years together and it is every bit as powerful as you think it will be with all nine songs running just a second over nineteen minutes. The breakneck tempos and shouted choruses will not be for everyone but the somewhat unexpected vocal harmonies are the payoff for HERC, who has been using the high intensity of the music to de-stress during these trying times. Setting aside the band's name and their ideology, they imbue the eight standards presented here with both intense passion and cautious respect. (The ninth track is an Andy Wallace remix of the band's 1993 song, "American Jesus".) In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, singer Greg Graffin reflected on his youth in a church choir, his love of celebrating Christmas and why the band with a crossbuster as their logo can record an album of Christmas songs:
"we've always been about pointing out the irony and contradictions in Christian theology and the more extreme versions of Christians that seek to challenge modern secularism."
Bad Religion also puts their money where their mouth is by donating a portion of this album's proceeds to SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). Give the record a listen and buy it if you can, if not for yourself than for someone you care about. It's a win/win.