I realize that I may be courting controversy by writing about a Christmas album on the first day of November. To that point, I will say two things. Firstly, we probably deserve a lengthened holiday season in a year as wretched as this one. Secondly, Ralphie's Red Ryders are not so much a Christmas-themed band as they are a Christmas Story themed band. And A Christmas Story transcends the season in which it is set. A Christmas Story is one of our greatest American films inspired by the writings of one of our greatest American humorists. You may perceive it as the tale of one boy's yearning for the most awesome Christmas present ever. I prefer to think of it as a story about learning profanity from your father, confronting bullies, honoring triple dog dares, pondering the relative toxicity of Lifebuoy soap, suffering the consequences of not securing your home against the neighbor's hounds, triumphing over faulty home appliances, and realizing to your bitter disappointment that advertising is everywhere in American society. Exploring a few of the above themes as well as many others from A Christmas Story, You'll Shoot Your Eye Out! is the 12-song debut album from Ralphie's Red Ryders - the Hohman, Indiana pop-punk trio that sounds suspiciously and uncannily like F & L favorites Vista Blue. For those of you who choose to keep your Thanksgiving season pure, it does not release digitally until Black Friday. But this OUTLOUD!/Radiant Radish Records split release is available starting today on compact disc.
You'll Shoot Your Eye Out! brings that signature Vista Blue sound that never leaves me disappointed. It's buzzing pop-punk with sprinkles of power pop & the Beach Boys. Songs range from the band's punkiest ever ("Hey Scut, You Suck", which suitably channels Wimpy era Queers) to one of its poppiest (the sublime "I'm Gonna Get An A+ On My Theme"). Topics cover everything from decoder rings to being overdressed for the cold weather to shopping at Higbee's to major awards to those darn Bumpus hounds to (of course!) Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifles. For those of you outside of the United States who might have no idea what I'm talking about, this is still as good of an album as Vista Blue has ever made. If you are familiar with the movie, you probably don't need to be told what the epic closing track "Electric Sex" is about. Suffice it to say that the song is everything I thought it would be and more. It's... it's... it's indescribably beautiful!
When I first discovered that Ralphie's Red Ryders were recording a full album of songs about A Christmas Story, I knew they were facing a tall order. You could easily write a triple album of Christmas Story themed songs and not run out of quality ideas. It's probably not possible to make a record like this without infuriating a few diehards because favorite characters or scenes of theirs were left out. But as far as I'm concerned, any unexplored song topics are simply opportunities for Ralphie's Red Ryders to record again someday. All the absolutely mandatory topics are covered here, and the band's attention to minutiae ("They Traded Bullfrog", "I Got A Zeppelin") is truly commendable. In true
Vista Blue Ralphie's Red Ryders fashion, the lyrics will make you laugh and have you feeling nice and warm on the inside. Neither fans of A Christmas Story nor fans of the band will have any reason to be disappointed.
If it goes against your deeply held principles to acknowledge anything Christmas related between now and Thanksgiving, check back on the 27th when the digital release of You'll Shoot Your Eye Out! goes live. Otherwise, put your CD order in now and get a download code right away. And while you're at it, be sure to check out the new season of Snow In Southtown - the Christmas movie and music obsessed podcast featuring Mike from Vista Blue and his pal Rusty! I don't know how I went from refusing to turn on the heat to opening my arms to Christmas cheer in a matter of days. Was it Ralphie's Red Ryders or was it those movies on Lifetime and Hallmark? I don't know, but clearly I have passed the point of no return!