Monday, December 17, 2012

The Vandals: Oi to the World!

Review # 74
Artist: The Vandals
Title: Oi to the World!
Format: CD
Label: Kung Fu Records
Year: 1996
Songs: 12

The Vandals, a long-running (but inconsistent) joke-punk band from southern California, released what may be the only full-length punk rock Christmas album in the mid-90s, well after their prime. I actually don't really like the Vandals, at least not as they exist today. Their early work features some great moments of 80s punk,  but if I understand correctly, the only person still involved with the band from those days is the drummer. In the years between their early 80s releases and the time this record came out, the Vandals changed from jokey hardcore to fairly generic 90s pop punk with "funny" lyrics. The Vandals weren't always clever even in the early days--some of their songs were hilarious, but others, like so many punk bands from their era, relied on shock value more than actually being funny. Call me a prude, but sometimes the Vandals' songs go too far over the line of political correctness for me to be comfortable. But that's a lot of 80s punk for you.

So I guess you could say I have mixed feelings about the Vandals. I picked up this particular record at a garage sale for a buck this summer. I had only ever heard the title track at that point, which is a pretty hilarious holiday-themed spoof on oi punk. Even though I've never really liked the later iterations of the Vandals as a band, I've always liked that song, so I picked it up. And... I have mixed feelings about it.

Oi to the World features some pretty hilarious holiday punk tunes. Similar to the title track, for example, "I Don't Believe in Santa Claus" is a send up of a punk sub-genre, in this case English anarcho-punk. The drums are all snare rolls and the vocalist takes on a thick (fake) British accent as he shouts out anti-capitalist cliches and denounces Christmas. Other tracks feature themes that would be familiar to most people who grew up celebrating Christmas--dealing with family members you don't really like, not getting the gifts you hoped for, people who are so obsessed with having the perfect Christmas that they end up ruining it for themselves and everyone else. They do it all to a pop-punk beat that's catchy and fun in small doses, but I wouldn't want to listen to all the time. A real stand-out track on the record, other than "Oi to the World" is the punk/metal version of "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies" from The Nutcracker. I don't know how to to describe it, other than to say that rocks, and I would happily listen to an entire Nutcracker album done in this style. Metal ballet? Who'd have thunk it?

As with the rest of the Vandals' catalogue though, there are a few tracks that go too far over the line of good taste for me. Lest you think I'm just a prude, I'll say up front that "Christmas Time for my Penis" is actually NOT one of these songs--I expected not to like that one, but actually, its pretty funny, because if you weren't paying close attention, you would think it was just a normal Christmas song that someone had written about a friend of family member who was having-ahem-a hard time during the holiday season. It hugs the line of bad taste but remains funny. On the other hand, "My First Christmas (As a Woman)," is a complete miss. It's not clever or funny, and seems a bit insensitive to the challenges faced by transgendered people. Their cover the of Yobs "C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S" is equally if not more tasteless, relying on entirely on cheap shock value for its supposed humour.

So, the final verdict? For a buck, this was a good purchase, if for no other reason than the title track and "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies." This record, however, is not for the easily offended, and features some tracks that make me push the "skip" button.

Here's the title track, if you want to check it out as well as "Dance of the Sugarplumb Fairies".

Total songs listened: 903

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