Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Here We Go A' Caroling

With Christmas almost upon us we're listening to Christmas Carols at the house 24 hours a day and unlike in previous years when we'd rotate through the various Christmas cd's we have we're relying mostly on the radio for our Christmas Carol fix. This has, in retrospect, been a bad idea. Gone are the alt-Christmas nuggets of The O.C.'s Christmakkah mixes, gone are the awesome covers such as Jimmy Eat World's brilliant take on "Last Christmas", gone is Wyclef Jean freestyling over Stevie Wonder piano licks as they perform at the White House. No, they have all been replaced with the banal, lifeless Christmas carols emanating from B95.5, Atlanta's soft rock juggernaut of shitty music.

This is mostly an exercise of convenience as the kids are, shall we say, impatient when the cd ends and we do have some cd's with some very odd choices including a "Very Special Christmas" mix that ends with a Patti Smith rendition of "We Three Kings" that sounds like she's trying to give her musical interpretation of the apocalypse. Keeping the radio on ensures an uninterrupted string of Christmas glee and makes sure that nothing strange gets in. Unfortunately it also means that we're confronted with some truly horrible Christmas music.

When I was but a young lad we had a four album set of Christmas music. I can remember it well because every record was in a different color sleeve and each sleeve had different ornaments on it. My sister and I would sit around the record player and look at the sleeves while the music played. Now there were four records but we only played one of them as one record had all of the good songs such as "Holly Jolly Christmas", "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and "Frosty the Snowman". When you're six, you want to hear about presents and mythical snow beasts, the coming of Our Lord and Saviour is far less important. Plus those songs were probably performed by the Lawrence Welk singers or some shit and as such were boring as hell. As a result of restricting myself to a childhood of snappier, faster Christmas songs I have zero tolerance for slower, drawn out holiday tunes.

Unfortunately, slower and drawn out seems to be the mark of a good Christmas song these days as I have heard some absolutely awful renditions of songs that are so slow and labored that they make "Jingle Bells" sounds like "Kashmir". Part of this is just shitty tempo choices, but part of this is the artist wanting to add their own "spin" to songs by adding words. A perfect example, James Taylor's rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". Not only is it dragged on forever by adding his own lyrics, as if the song wasn't quite good enough on its own, James feels that the song isn't quite specific enough as to when you should have a merry little Christmas, opting to add the word "right" to the line "have yourself a merry little Christmas now". Seriously James? Does the the word "now" not convey immediacy enough for you? Or are you concerned that people will be thinking on a glacial or galactic time scale and think that "now" means sometime this epoch and you want it "right now" as in this very instant? I'm willing to give Yolanda Adams a pass on this one because her version kicks ass and girlfriend can sing.

Of course, this is to say nothing of the rampant oversinging that every artist seems to think is their birthright. Maybe they think that their voice is a gift from Jesus and by dragging a note over an eight octave range is their way of thanking JC for his gifts, but whatever it is, it needs to stop. You can sing, we get it, now please wrap it up, I've got presents to buy. Christina Aguilera is by far the worst at this, which isn't surprising as she's not very good at non-Christmas music either.

Finally, some Christmas songs just need to go away and never come back. Over the course of a normal holiday season I'd hear "A Wonderful Christmas Time" three, maybe four times. I think I've heard it at least seven hundred times since Thanksgivingl. I am now convinced that Paul McCartney is Satan's agent on Earth sent to drive us all insane to the point where we murder each other.

Now don't get me wrong, I still love Christmas songs. Give me a good Johnny Mathis song or a Burl Ives tune, or better yet, Run-DMC's live version of "Christmas in Hollis" and I'm happier than a pig in shit. I just need to reclaim our Christmas from the greedy clutches of soft rock.

In the interest of that, enjoy one of the greatest Christmas songs ever made, courtesy of The Vandals. Oi to the world everyone!