Thursday, December 21, 2006

Keep Xmas and Hanukkah weird

There are yearly statistics that point out that there's a spiked rate of depression and suicide during holiday time. The reason is usually that we're not as jolly as we're supposed to be or as we're led to believe we should be. I admit that I get blue sometimes too but I really think that part of it is that like many people, I can't stand hearing the same freakin' Christmas songs over and over and over again. That pain is only made worse when artists feel that they have to add to the junk pile by roasting the same old songs again and again on their Christmas albums. It's gotten to the point that even Billy Idol (yep, the 'punk' guy who did "White Wedding") has a holiday album out. Talk about depressing.

Luckily, there is some call for cheer. In this blitz of bad taste, the occasional gem creeps up from the pack to make us all merry.

Two of my favorite hold-outs from last year were delicious novelties that my family still enjoys. Mel Waldorf is the genius behind Meshugga Beach Party and their wonderful album Twenty Songs of the Chosen Surfers (newly reissued with four new tracks). Here, Jewish holiday music becomes surf music and the fit isn't just funny but a good groove too. Cross-cultural confusion also reigns on the Klezmonauts' Oy to the World where Christmas fare becomes klezmer music with dallops of James Brown, Iron Butterfly, Ennio Morricone and more surf music. If you wanna learn more, I wrote about both albums in more detail last year for the Seattle Weekly.

For you hipsters out there, the holiday also means yuletime mixtapes. My two favorites came from the inimitable mash-up master DJ BC and his Santastic II: Clausome mix along with Reboot Stereophonic's funky Hannukah.

For anyone complaining that the holidays ain't funky enough, there's Bootsy's Christmas Is 4 Ever (Shout Factory) which features not just his P-Funk friends but also Snoop Dogg, Bobby Womack and (you can't make this stuff up) Charlie Daniels. And for those hankering for a power-pop-gone-country holiday, there's the expanded reissue of the db's Christmas Time Again (Collector's Choice) featuring fellow travelers Whiskeytown (you know, Ryan Adams' old band?), Marshall Crenshaw and Alex Chilton (including a reprise of Big Star's great "Jesus Christ," a nature holiday anthem). There's even an interesting ambient/experimental collection of Christmas-inspired music from Sibbler called (appropriately enough) Sounds of Christmas (which they're nice enough to let you hear for free to preview it).

As much as I admire Sufjan Stevens' genuinely cheery Songs For Christmas boxset (oy, that guy knows his concepts), my favorite new holiday music is probably Shtetl Superstars Sound System's Funky Jewish Sounds from Around the World (Trikont)- technically, it's not just Hanukkah fare but it's a great dance and religious celebration, as joyous as the holidays should be. A close 2nd might be a group that brings another meaning to "ho, ho, ho"- the nerdcore Christmas Gangstaz (including "Santa's Gettin' Dropped" on their EP and pleading with MySpace users "Please add us! We're a fake rap group").

And when it's time to clear out the house from those relatives who want to stay through New Year's, there's two good choices to help you give them the hint. First is Twisted Sister's A Twisted Christmas with their takes on "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" and "I'll Be Home For Christmas" as they dream of presents like an Ozzy tattoo, studded belts and spandex pants. There's also old Saturday Night Life hold-over Father Guido Sarducci's Worst Xmas song ever where he compounds "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" with his Scroogy shtick. If that doesn't do it, there's my old favorite stand-by: the Barking Dogs doing "Jingle Bells" and a kitty version for you feline fans.

Slappy holidaze to y'all...


Anonymous James said...

One of my favorite Christmas music collections is a CD released by Rhino Records in the mid-80's, titled Bummed Out Christmas. Long out of print, I think. You can guess where this one is going with the title, and sure enough, you get classics like "Christmas Eve Can Kill You" (by the Everly Brothers!) and "Santa Got a DUI This Year." I love it and I pull it out of storage each December.

5:12 PM  

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