Friday, December 05, 2008

Merry Subversive Christmas: More songs to help survive the holidays

Two years ago I provided a list of songs to counterbalance the oh-so-cheery holiday music that saturates airwaves and blares out of the speakers of retail hell. Now, the holiday season is upon us once again so I bestow upon you five more subversive holiday songs. These songs are at times cynical, maybe a little mean, but you can only take so much forced goodwill before you snap.

"Father Christmas"- The Kinks (1977)
Although this is a radio favorite, don't be fooled into thinking this is your run-of-the-mill Christmas carol. Leave it to The Kinks, the same band that sang about an encounter with the transvestite "Lola," to write a song about mugging Santa. Ray Davies' sunny delivery masks the nastiness in lyrics such as "Father Christmas, give us some money/Don't mess around with those silly toys/Well beat you up if you don't hand it over."

"Christmas in Heaven" - Monty Python (1983)
"Monty Python's Flying Circus" and the spin-off series of films were always filled with loopy songs that often pointed out the hypocrisies or the idiosyncrasies of society. The comedy troupe's final film "Monty Python and the Meaning of Life" culminated with a trip to heaven where it is Christmas every day. The late Graham Chapman as an over-the-top lounge-lizard sings a caustic song about the consumerism and commercialism that runs rampant during the holiday season that includes lyrics like: "There's great films on TV/"The Sound of Music" twice an hour/And "Jaws" one, two, and three."

"Christmas at Ground Zero" - "Weird Al" Yankovic (1986)
Weird Al's song parodies are usually goofy and innocuous, but Al also has a macabre and twisted sense of humor that occasionally shines through. Written in 1986, "Christmas at Ground Zero" is a biting satire on Cold War paranoia filtered through the sound of a festive holiday tune. Are lines like: "It's Christmas at ground zero/There's panic in the crowd/We can dodge debris while we trim the tree/Underneath the mushroom cloud" riotously funny, or simply in bad taste? You be the judge.

"Little Drum Machine Boy" - Beck (1996)
"The Little Drummer Boy" gets morphed into an odd dance and rap flavored Chanukkah anthem featuring "the holiday Chanukkah robot of funk." Beck is a chameleon-like musician who jumps to and blends different genres with amazing skill. It is hardly traditional, but certainly original and memorable. It needs to be heard to believe.

"Mr. Heat Miser" - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (2004)
The song first appeared in the 1974 stop-motion animation special "The Year Without Santa" and also features the song sung by the Heat Miser's chilly counterpart the Snow Miser. In the special Mrs. Claus tries to convince the feuding offspring of Mother Nature to help a sick Santa. Thirty years later the swing revival group Big Bad Voodoo Daddy recorded the definitive version of the song for their holiday album "Everything You Want for Christmas."

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