Vermont's immortal punk rockers The Wards have finally done it. No, they aren't headlining the Vans Warped tour. They've released a Christmas album. Now my holiday can be truly complete.
Christmas Punk kicks off with a ridiculous little number called "Dear Santa." With its double-time drums, simple, sludgy guitar and chant-along background vocals, it sounds comfortably old-school. No flashy time changes or fretboard gymnastics here, just adorably macho punk.
The party continues with "Daddy, I Know You're Santa Claus," an amusingly infantile tune featuring a rugged descending riff and singer T. Curly's inimitable, Homer Simpson-in-leather vocals.
And what to make of "elf.com?" An apparent ode to modern love and digital consumerism, the tune boasts a wicked sloppy blues progression and meat 'n' potatoes percussion. "Internet shopping, 2005 / Computer Christmas, Santa's online," Curly sings like an overzealous Circuit City employee. Someone's pretty psyched to be rid of their bulky Sears catalogues.
"Freedom" kicks off with a chugging bass figure, before being overtaken by lo-fi keyboards and stun-gun guitar. But The Wards' latest protest song doesn't hold a candle to their '80s classics, such as "Weapons Factory" or "No More Nuclear War." (By the way, has anyone ever figured out exactly what atomic battles the latter song is referring to?)
And what Christmas album would be complete without a standard? Well, The Wards chose "Run, Run Rudolph." Imagine Chuck Berry with fetal alcohol syndrome, and you're almost there.
My favorite cut has to be "Secret Santa," a tune so oddly atonal that it might as well be a lost Residents track. Unfortunately, at a mere 40 seconds, there's barely enough time to catch its bizarre drift.
Closer "Christmas in Afghanistan" is sure to become a Wards staple. "It's Christmas in Afghanistan, our troops are overseas / And the only present on my list, bin Laden is his name / we don't care if he's hiding in a hole or in a cave," Curly sings in a clipped tenor. Man, these guys should think about booking a USO tour.
As usual, it's a blast to hear Vermont's punk godfathers lay down the musical, martial law. Oh, and congrats to the band on its recent victory on VCAM's local game show, "Survey Says." Who says you can't have brain and brawn?