Three Actually Good Christmas Songs: 2017

Well, it’s about goddamn time  I showed up.

Again, I apologize for the lack updates through this past month due to a lack of proper computer. Turns out that my OS got corrupted (likely due to heat damage as a hypothesize), but now I have a much more stable rig that runs much smoother and doesn’t crash every 60 seconds for an hour straight until it completely screws up my screen resolution and kills my audio rendering everything mute and illegible.

But alas, I’m way behind on the Christmas cheer this year as a result of this mess and god knows we need it with the absolute crap-sack that 2018 is starting us off with. Between the rampant sexual abuse stories, tax plans that threaten to loot the country, and the impending death of a free internet, we really need something uplifting to keep morale strong. So let’s kick out the jams and rock around the Christmas tree again this year.

“Run Rudolph Run” – Lemmy Kilmister

I’m one of those weirdos that think that Metal makes an acceptable genre of music for holiday cheer. And why not? It’s a horribly underexplored genre for being a global tribe that unites countries and cultures around the world (note to self: consider writing about country-specific Metal subgenres in the future).

Enter Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister with his cover of “Run Rudolph Run.” Honestly, I never liked the Chuck Berry original or the numerous covers aping him until I found this. If you go back and listen, a lot of Chuck Berry’s stuff sounds EXACTLY the same. Plus, most people that cover this just don’t have the force of character behind their voice to make it fun and interesting.

Lemmy, meanwhile, uses his gravelly tone with a thrashing bass to give the sort of sound you’d want play while racing the clock to the Christmas party. Remember; Motörhead is known for Speed Metal – a subgenre that’s all about going fast.

And since I’m going off on Metal…

“Jingle Bell Metal” – Psychostick

At this point, most of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook know I have a soft spot for Comedy Metal. And among the greats like Dethklok, Primus, and Tenacious D,  Psychostick holds a special place; a flickering lighter in the Metal concert of my soul.

While the vast majority of their Christmas album, The Flesh Eating Rollerskate Holiday Joyride, is pessimistic towards the holiday, it still manages to be the only Christmas album I can listen to from beginning to end. And their Metal medley of holiday hijinx, “Jingle Bell Metal,” is actually quite celebratory… if only in the over-the-top way people picture most metalheads act.

It’s not the kind of music you put on for the family, but it’s good ridiculous fun.

“Alone On Christmas Day” – Phoenix w/ Bill Murray

One of the complaints I have about Christmas music is that it never changes; it’s just the same arbitrarily accepted canon of songs repeated ad nauseam. Seriously, did you know that “Silent Night” is the third most covered song in the history of music?

I’m of the opinion that, if you’re going to blatantly copy someone, it should be done to preserve the memory of their art – not to ride on their coattails. Hence why I’m so glad this cover of a forgotten Beach Boys song exists.

What’s more, it’s a rarity among Christmas tracks – a sad song about being alone for the holidays that has an uplifting message in the end; pick yourself up and keep moving on because you don’t know how much better it can get.

Plus, who knew that Bill Murray had such a good baritone voice?


Great Christmas Songs: Part 3 – The Cheer Strikes Back

So, it’s come to be that time of year again. As per holiday tradition, I’ve come to present you with my gift of various Christmas carols and songs that I’ve been taking note of.

Now, normally I present you with a list of absolutely terrible songs to start. But, in my attempts to follow my unstated goal of making this blog more upbeat and positive, I’ve decided to forgo that half of the tradition this year and just jump right into the good times.

So, no more lollygagging; Let’s get this sleigh ride in gear!

A Swingin’ Little Christmas Time – Jane Lynch

This has to be the newest song I’ve ever praised in this annual series of mine. Most new Christmas songs I hear are usually just rehashings of older songs that were done much better before and/or adhere to the tropes of modern pop so tightly that they feel out of place in the season.

Not the case with A Swingin’ Little Christmas Time. Not only does this happy and bouncy number stand out from the beige sea of flatly flavorless pop music, it does so by bringing back one of my favorite genres of music; Swing.

Swing is great for when you want to liven up a party; It has all the danceability of modern EDM with the classic feeling of refinement that comes with Jazz. And on a day that should be all about celebration while fondly remembering or golden years and spreading joy to others like a classy gent/lady, a song like this really helps to put me in the spirit.

Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy – Bing Crosby & David Bowie

I mentioned in the past that of all the Christmas songs that get remade every year, Little Drummer Boy was the one that hits with me more often than it misses. I also mentioned that of all the people to cover it Burl Ives was probably my favorite.

Well, I need to amend that statement. Burl is great, don’t get me wrong, but he comes an EXTREMELY close second to Bing and David.

You’d think that pairing one of the classic king crooners with a god of Experimental Rock would be discordant at best. But then you remember how Bowie’s softer, almost dove-like tones make a perfect complement to Bing’s dulcet bass.

I also found myself enjoying the way the two sets of lyrics play off each other. While Bing retells the tale of the boy with nothing to give but a simple song, David reminds us why we need to follow that boy’s example and make the world as comfortable a home as possible for all of us.

Sleigh Ride – Los Straitjackets

You know what I never realized about most covers until this year? Half the reason I don’t like them is because the vocals are sung by people whose voices don’t carry nearly enough emotion and/or experience to justify them performing it. A lot of these covers work better just by making them instrumentals and letting the music be the centerpiece.

Case in point; Los Straitjackets’ Surf Rock cover of Sleigh Ride is an entertaining piece Christmas spirit; juxtaposing the joys of a winter ride through the snow with the music most closely associated with warm, sunny beaches.

Much like the aforementioned A Swingin’ Little Christmas Time, it’s a lively song that stands out among the more repetitive sound of other Christmas songs played back to back and that makes it a valuable spirit-lifter.

One-Hit Wonderful: Part Three – The Bands Play On

So, with the modest resurgence of one of my childhood favorites in the music business with Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ “Dark Necessities”, I’ve – once again – found myself digging back through the old catalog of my favorite songs of yesteryear. In doing so, I’ve uncovered more one-hit wonders that deserved better.

So, let’s go for the hat trick and take a look at three more underrated classics from pop music’s past.

Semisonic – “Chemistry”

Awhile back, I briefly talked about how Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson wrote and produced Adele’s best work. That said, he and his band still did great stuff on their own beyond “Closing Time”. Oh, it was an important milestone for indie music for my generation, but there was so much more.

Their third studio album, “All About Chemistry”, was much more mature yet playful (read: had a lot more coded sex talk) than previous outings. Most of the time, it was trying to sneak helpful lessons about safe and healthy sex for the teens that were buying up their music at the time. For example, “Get A Grip” was a silly, light-hearted story about how healthy and normal regular masturbation is.

However, it was the title track “Chemistry” that sticks with me. It’s a tale about playing the field (experimenting, to use the chemistry analogy) to find the one that won’t burn you out or hurt you. That’s an important lesson considering how many unhappy relationships we see due to people staying together for the sake of some outdated idea of what faithfulness should be.

If people aren’t adding to your happiness, they shouldn’t occupy space (or at least AS MUCH space) in your life. It’s only going to make you both miserable. That’s the moral to take away from this little number.

Dexy’s Midnight Runners – “Jackie Wilson Said”

As great as the hit song “Come On Eileen” is, I feel the message of youthful abandon in the face of darker times was lost on most listeners… mostly because we had difficulty understanding the lyrics.

However, if you were already familiar with Van Morrison, you didn’t have to guess what their cover of “Jackie Wilson Said” was saying; you already knew.

See, Dexy’s – like other acts born from the U.K.’s Northern Soul movement – was heavily influenced by lesser known or sadly forgotten American Soul artists. Here, they fly their colors proudly by directly referencing a great name from Soul’s past.

Add to that how the vocals are – in my humble opinion – much better than those of Van Morrison’s original, and you have the makings of an undervalued gem.

Deee-Lite – “Picnic In The Summertime”

Did I mention how much I F***ING LOVE Deee-Lite?

But damn, if you thought “Power Of Love” was a departure from the norm for Deee-Lite, “Picnic In The Summertime” is a whole different beast altogether.

There’s no deep message or meaning here; it’s just a really happy song about enjoying the little joys of life set to a more urban sound than what they traditionally were used to.

Honestly, I respect the decision to experiment with a new sound every now and again. It keeps things fresh and interesting. It’s just a shame that the public at large wasn’t more receptive at the time.

3 More Wonderfully Weird Music Genres

So, while glancing at the last months worth of articles, I noticed a trend of pessimism that needs to be curtailed.

To that end, I’ve decided to delve deep into The Archive and provide a continuation of my exploration of bizarre and brilliant things going on in music. Let’s not waste time and get right into the fun bits.

All-Female Metal Tributes

I was born and raised as a metalhead. My parents fed me a steady stream of the Hair Metal they grew up with like KISS and Poison as well as Hard Rock (all Metal’s common ancestor) like AC/DC and Aerosmith. However, as I grow older, I’ve noticed a problem with Metal; despite how many girls I know that love it, the only time you see women in the genre are on the questionable and often exploitative album art.

Apparently, some lovely ladies agreed that this was wrong and took it upon themselves to take a few extraneous Y-chromosomes out of the sound by forming all-female tribute bands dedicated to some of the greats of Metal. Some notable bands in the genre include Judas Priestess, Hells Belles, and my favorite on the basis of the name alone; Vag Halen.

It’s no mistake that this is the first genre I cover in this article after verbally tearing Meghan Trainor a superabundant sphincter last week. It seems that many female artists are forgetting that feminism is NOT narrow-minded self-interest and nursing a superiority complex. We need more people in the world that actually care about adding to the scope and range of voices heard in media. And that’s why I love this genre.

It’s also why I love…


In much the same way that the above mentioned all-female metal tributes were born from women being excluded from the Metal scene, so to was queercore (aka; homocore) born from the inherently homophobic vibes of 80’s hardcore punk and created an alternative for those being excluded that enjoyed the sound.

Bands and artists in queercore use the same naming conventions as our AFMT friends above. Only instead of feminizing existing bands and songs, they ‘gay them up’ as it were. This results in bands like Youth of Togay, Cockwind, and Gayrilla Biscuits.

My favorite though has to be Black Fag – who not only donate the proceeds from tours to charities in the gay community but also do the best cover of T.V. Party I’ve ever heard.


And you thought this was just going to be politicized tribute bands…

You know what my beef is with modern mainstream rap? The class is gone. Back in the day, rap and hip-hop were fun and happy, even as they talked about serious issues. Old school rappers in the 80’s and early 90’s would still brag and boast, but did so with an air of dignity. Basically, rap forgot how to be a gentleman.

Leave it to the British to remind us how to be classy.

Chap-hop is the combination of modern rap and that distinctly British men’s fashion trend; chap. The result is a sound that blends rap-style production with a sound that wouldn’t be out of place on a 1900’s photograph and coats it in hilarious boasting lyrics about stereotypically gentlemanly things like tea, mustache grooming,  and playing cricket.

Chap-hop has bled into another odd subculture, steampunk, and you can find many chap-hop artists like Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer, Poplock Holmes, and Professor Elemental performing at conventions.

Great Gifts of Song: Three More Great Christmas Songs

So, last week saw a follow-up to last year’s bad Christmas song list. Now, like last year, we’ve come to the flip-side. After all, why would I dedicate a joyous celebration to nothing but the coal that was dumped in our stockings. This is Christmas, damn it. So let’s have some fun.

Christmas is A-Comin’ – Bing Crosby

It just doesn’t feel like Christmas until one of the old crooners shows up at the party.

This one is a new favorite that I just learned of this year. Here, Bing spins the tale of a lone beggar on the streets shortly before Christmas and how, despite his situation, he still manages to be one of the happiest and friendliest men in town; wishing well to others far better off than himself.

This is a happy little tune that manages to put you outside of your own head space to consider others without shaming the listener or painting the less fortunate as pathetic. You’d think that a concept like that would be a no-brainer, but you’d never know it from other Christmas songs like Do They Know It’s Christmas (Don’t worry – Band Aid’s time will come next year).

Christmas In Killarney – The Irish Rovers

Here’s a little treat for those who, like me, are of proud Irish descent.

You never really think of it, but it’s surprisingly easy to forget that Christmas isn’t celebrated just at your home. That said, other homes around the world have their own little touches that make them special and leave us wondering what it’s like on the other side of the ocean.

I like this one for both the pleasant reminder of my own heritage as well as the reminder to think more globally this year.

Now, it’s true that our friend Bing from earlier in this article did this song as well and that version seems to get more radio play. But, in my opinion, you absolutely need to hear The Irish Rovers’ take. There’s just something about having a few of the local boys do it in their style that feels more organic and natural.

Christmas All Over Again – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

I think Tom Petty may rank as one of my favorite singer/songwriters of all time. So it comes as no surprise that his contribution to the Christmas arts would make my personal ‘Nice’ list.

Even if I didn’t love Tom, this is a great song. There aren’t any of the overly lavish bells and whistles of most Christmas tracks – no cheesy synthesizers, no obnoxiously loud bells, just a simple sing-along about all of the stuff we look forward to on the holidays.

In that regard, it’s also the most honest song about Christmas as well. It’s not dripping with sickeningly sweet shmaltz nor is it bitterly pessimistic about holiday stressors. It simply tells it like it is; which, in my mind, has always been Tom’s best quality.

Also, I can’t deny that hearing Tom read off his wish list at the end puts a smile on my face every time I hear it.

Three Christmas Songs I will Never Get Tired Of

Last week, I gave you a short list of songs that manage to suck the Christmas joy out of me every time I hear them (and as we all know, sucking out joy is ‘Disney Evil’).

So in an attempt to lighten the mood, it’s only fair that I look at the other end of the spectrum.

These are songs that have stuck with me long enough that they’ve become a yearly tradition and I can’t call it Christmas until I’ve heard them at least once.

Snoopy’s Christmas (Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron) – The Royal Guardsmen

I actually know a number of people who don’t like or even hate the Peanuts comics and T.V. specials. But, for me, they were a formative part of my youth. They were the earliest cartoons I remember seeing.

Even ignoring the nostalgic comfort of the image of Snoopy boldly flying his dog house into battle, the story behind this song reflects what the holidays are all about in a microcosm; two people pitted against one another putting aside their affiliations to remember that they are both human (or canine as the case may be) and kin. And even though they know that they will likely meet again as enemies, they can forget their animosities for at least one day.

This song serves to remind me that we have the ability to seek out and obtain peace, effectively restoring my faith in humanity.

The Little Drummer Boy – Various Artists

This one would have to make the list regardless how I constructed it.

Sadly, in these more conservative times, I feel this song falls by the wayside due to its religious connotations and people fearing that they may offend someone. But if you look past that, you can see the true touching nature of this little carol.

The titular boy is practically destitute and has no gifts to offer; all he can do is play a small song on his drum. But that little kindness is still felt and cherished. During a time known as ‘The Season of Giving’, wouldn’t you want a song that reflects that spirit so well?

For my money, the best versions of The Little Drummer Boy focus mostly, if not exclusively, on the percussion for obvious reasons and get more powerful and booming near the end as the boy, “[plays his] best for him.” That said, I have yet to find a single one of the over thirty covers of this song I don’t like.

Wait, Justin Bieber covered it with Busta Rhymes?! NOOOOOO!!!

The 12 Days Of Christmas – Straight No Chaser

What would ‘The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year’ be without a few good laughs?

Leave it to Straight No Chaser to take some of the most tired and overused Christmas anthems (plus one stray Chanukah song and a one-hit wonder from the 80’s) and breathe new life into them by creating a medley of hilarity.

The humor here is subtle. By combining so many staples of Christmas music, they satirize the way many of us feel during the holidays whenever those carols play – every song just fades into one another creating a big bland mess of sound.

Props to you, Straight No Chaser for saying what we’re all thinking in the most creative way possible.

Bonus: Santa Claus and His Old Lady – Cheech & Chong

It’s not music, but it just feels wrong to leave my most important and favorite Christmas audio tradition out of this list.

If you can’t laugh and slacker comedy pioneers Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, you have no soul and I can’t help you – close your browser window and just walk away.

This little recorded anecdote between the two most famous stoners in the history of comedy covers Cheech’s attempts to explain the story of Santa Claus to Chong because he, “[doesn’t] know too many local dudes.”

The humor comes from the fact that Cheech is attempting to explain the story in the only terms they can understand – putting it in the context of a sub-standard urban community like the one they live in. When you realize that, you also come to realize that every culture on earth has been doing the same thing for thousands of years.

Thanks for the Christmas cheer, you two. May your tree not be the only green you have this year.