Thursday, December 09, 2010

Have an off-beat Christmas: Different songs for holidays

Everywhere you go they can be heard. In stores. On the street. On the radio. They're on the attack and there's too many to fight them off. Yes, Christmas songs have arrived and there's no stopping them. So, now I provide the third installment of subversive songs for the holiday. The first dates back to 2006 and the second to 2008.

“Cool Yule” — Tony Rodelle Larson (1962)
Probably about as obscure of a Christmas song as you'll ever find. I discovered this a few years back mis-labeled as being performed by William Shatner. It is easy to understand the confusion as Larson's broken speech patterns do indeed bring to mind Shatner's riffs on such songs as “Rocket Man” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.” This beatnik riff on “Twas Night the Night Before Christmas” is definitely way out and is a fantastic change of pace.

“There Ain't No Sanity Clause” — The Damned (1980)
English punk band The Damned released this song just in time for the holiday season, but it failed to chart perhaps because no one wanted to have the Santa Claus bubble popped for the youngest yuletide revelers. The lyrics are barely intelligible, but include gems like “Vanians got a visit from a guy named Drac/Says he's from the blood bank wants his 10 pints back.” It is the sing-a-long anthem-like chorus that brings this one home.

“I'm Getting Nuttin' for Christmas” — Relient K (2007)
Christian punk/pop band Relient K's second Christmas album mixes sincere rock-tinged holiday music with songs that lampoon the season. In this case, we have the latter with a fast, rocking cover of the novelty song “I'm Getting Nuttin' for Christmas.” The snarling punk attitude and crunching guitars suit lyrics like “I broke my bat on Johnny's head/Somebody snitched on me” quite well.

“Another Christmas Song” — Stephen Colbert (2008)
Satirical pundit Stephen Colbert did a hilarious parody of holiday specials complete with “unexpected” guests and “impromptu” sing-alongs. The special's songs either subverted pre-existing songs or, in this case, are something completely new. Lyrics like “The tree is frozen, the winter’s bright/Who’d have thought the wise men look so white” are made all the funnier by Colbert's authentic crooning and the familiar jazzy sound of the music.

“Merry Something to You” — Devo (2009)
Yep, Devo, those quirky new wavers who are often dismissed as one-hit wonders recorded a song for the holidays. Blending cheery, generic holiday music with the synthesizers and drum beats they are known for, the band creates an infectious little ditty. Although best known for the song “Whip It,” Devo often used their songs to satirize society and that's most definitely the case here as they proclaim: “Believe what you want nothing's really true.”

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