Review Summary: The Vandals perform gimmick and gag numbers to play quietly beneath the sounds of children unwrapping presents and crackling chestnuts this Christmas.
Clothed in a tan suit with olive green shirt and bright red tie, Dave Quackenbush smiles wryly, looking like a crooked used car salesman primed for the holiday season. However, this smile precedes a warm tune of Christmas cheer, “A Gun for Christmas,” that he sings to the crowd of hundreds dancing in delight at the House of Blues in Hollywood. Dave sings for The Vandals, who performed their annual Winter Formal on December 22nd, 2007, commemorating the release of their album Oi to the World
. Released in 1996 by Kung Fu Records, which is owned and operated by Vandals bassist Joe Escalante and outrageous guitarist Warren Fitzgerald, Oi to the World
is a present the whole family can enjoy, assuming your family regularly attends punk rock shows. Led through the night by the brilliant professional drummer Josh Freese, The Vandals perform gimmick and gag numbers to play quietly beneath the sounds of children unwrapping presents and crackling chestnuts this Christmas.
The family might think that playing it at a low level is not such a bad idea, but to keep the carolers away, it would be wise to set up the speakers on the front porch this December. The weakest songs on the album “Grandpa's Last X-Mas” (save a few good guitar licks) and “Nothing's Going to Ruin My Holiday” make for an awful musical production, but the charm of this gift is its hackneyed humor applied to a day we all (for the most part) know and love. Songs like “Christmas Time for My Penis” are inherently funny, as Dave describes how “I know you've been feeling down, all pent up it's so hard to breathe, don't fret this Christmas, you'll get the attention you need. I love you so much that it's hard, to repay you for all the good times.” The adolescent wit is diffused over the entire album. The previously mentioned “A Gun for Christmas” begins with the sound of Santa Claus happily chanting “ho ho ho” while gunfire litters the streets below, before The Vandals explain how getting a gun for Christmas is the perfect solution for protecting their other gifts and keeping carolers off of their porch.
Dave brought out a guitar-shaped gift during the holiday set, presenting it to Warren, and apparently disregarded technicalities prior to the delivery as the acoustic rock machine refused to play at an acceptable decibel level. Fitzgerald settled down the raucous crowd by playing “Hang Myself From the Tree” on an electric beast instead, accompanied by Josh Freese's brother Jason on saxophone, notorious for his recent keyboard work with Green Day. The song is a tribute to the down and depressed, listless and lonely, and somber and sad folks during the winter time. Warren performs the song to an assumed light-hearted audience, claiming “Christmas is dark and wet...this is the end of hope, I won't write a note, because it would be addressed to no one.” The studio version also adds another horn and choral group to enhance Warren's glum tale.
Music compels at this time of year, whether you're suffering in a mall, elevator, or at grandma's house, where incessantly repeated tunes may help you lose your mind. The Vandals parody common Christmas songs, taking flavors from jingles like “Deck the Halls,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Joy to the World.” Bells ring on almost every song, and the band often breaks down their heavy riffing to sing together. The instrumental “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies” is an accelerated, thunderous cover of the famous song conducted by Tchaikovsky, who likely never envisioned such enormous potential for that work. Though The Vandals display an abundant affinity for poking fun at the holiday season, their sensibility for silliness likely tells of a love for this time of giving, family, and music.
Jesus Christ and Josh Freese celebrate birthdays together, and The Vandals gave tribute in Hollywood to those gentlemen with their classic “Happy Birthday to Me.” The crowd rocked and rolled as they all sang along under artificial snow. It was a Christmas formal to remember. The performance emulated the notion of holiday cheer recorded on Oi to the World
, though the studio version only carries much value within the context of Christmas time. Considering the theme of the album and ridiculous approach The Vandals take to music, this album receives a nice score over a naughty one. Of course, it would be perfect to plant under someone's Christmas tree, as long as they have a soft spot for mohawks.