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?

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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.

The Agent Gets Nostalgic: Stuff From Yester-year That I Kinda Miss

So, I have literally been sitting at a blank word processor for two hours trying to think of the words to share this week and all I could do is let my mind wander aimlessly. I had nothing. For the first time in what feels like forever, nothing jumped out at me in my personal life this week to comment on.

… Until I started thinking back to the old days.

I started to think about the commonplace stuff from my day that they just don’t seem to have anymore. Things that I once took for granted that I sorely lack now.

So today, instead of sharing deep thoughts on pop culture trends or bringing obscure facts to light, I’m just going to wax poetic on the things from my youth that I miss having around.

CDs and CD Players

Carrying these bad boys around fully loaded is how we got ripped back in the day.
Source: Case Logic

I was actually born in the age of cassette tapes, VHS videos, and floppy disks. So when someone had the bright idea to slap music, movies, and games on CDs, it was a life changer for me. No more tangled or worn-out tapes that wouldn’t play anymore. Now we had durable, portable media storage with way more space to hold the stuff we love.

These days, while I’m not exactly heartbroken about DVDs and CD-ROMs being replaced by digital streaming and downloads, I do find that I miss CD quality music. I get that having your Spotify playlist on your phone is more convenient than schlepping around the mall with a backpack filled with CD binders. But I’m an audiophile (if you haven’t noticed from the many articles I’ve done on the subject of music and my weekly #TuneTuesday posts on Facebook and Twitter) and the compressed sound of today makes me feel like I’m missing something.

Music is a spiritual experience for me; my mind and body resonate with some indescribable emotion that I never feel anywhere else. I’m the kind of guy that cranks his car stereo to 60 just to feel the sound run through my veins like liquid lightning. As such, I want to make sure I experience all of it every time I hear it.

Cartoons made just to sell toys

Don’t even get me started on the ones we would “customize” from pieces of the broken ones and nail polish.
Source: Mental Floss

In one episode of my favorite cartoon of all time Freakazoid, I was introduced to the term ‘toyetic’ – an adjective used to describe an object that has the potential to be mass marketed as a toy, game, or similar product.

It was on that day that I realized that the vast number of shows I grew up with as a kid – TransformersZoids, etc. – existed for no other reason than to see how many times I would buy the same toy over and over again just because it was cool.

And you know what? I’m totally fine with that.

The reason I bought those toys (or rather, begged my parents to buy them) was because my friends and I were convinced that we had better stories to tell than the people who were paid to write them professionally. And for that short time as kids, we actually did.

Basically, I miss these toy-centric cartoons because they were my first introduction to writing. And while I’m not that into fiction anymore, I like to think that the passion still burns just a hot now as it did back then.

Speaking of cartoons…

Animated Variety Shows

I couldn’t think of an adequate picture to sum up this thought, so please enjoy this GIF of a toy that’s wildly inappropriate in retrospect.
Source: Giphy

What is an ‘animated variety show’ I hear you ask? In essence, much like how variety shows of yore were showcases for various acting, comedy, and musical talents, their animated brethren were collections of short subject cartoons from various artists and writers. And much like how actors could use those appearances as a jumping off point for bigger projects, these cartoons served as pilots for what could become a new series.

A lot of well-loved shows got their start this way; both Powerpuff Girls and Courage the Cowardly Dog got started as shorts on Cartoon Network’s What-A-Cartoon. Meanwhile, Beavis and Butthead and Aeon Flux came into their own via MTV’s much edgier Liquid Television.

I miss these cheap and cheerful parades of creative Ids gone wild because it gave us a look into talents that we very rarely would get to see otherwise. These days, such things have been replaced with soulless statistics and sample audience surveys.

There’s a reason why Youtube is my go-to place for entertainment these days; because the internet is where the people crazy enough to do something amazing can be truly free.

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…

Queercore

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.

Chap-Hop

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.

Meghan Trainor’s Is Bad Advice For Women (And Insulting To Lonely Men)

Well, I teased it last week. I might as well say for real this time; I have no trust or faith left in Meghan Trainor as an artist.

What started as a few misgivings I noticed in All About That Bass devolved into anti-male insults in Lips Are Movin’ and again into outdated 50’s patriarchal family values in Dear Future Husband. But I feel that it’s her latest offering, , that encapsulates everything wrong her message as an artist.

I could complain about how she’s sold out and traded in the 50’s classic rock sound for a generic ‘angry girl’ pop sound, but this isn’t about her sound. This is about the text and subtext of her work; what she wants us to do with our lives as a society and how she’s demonstrably wrong.

So let’s waste no time. I’m going to breakdown Trainor’s lyrics to prove that she A) genuinely hates men and B) doesn’t know how feminism works.

“I think it’s so cute and I think it’s so sweet/How you let your friends encourage you to try and talk to me”

Wait, that’s a charming trait to you? Most people I know would take having to be goaded to do something as a sign of cowardice or lack of character. It’s not an accurate assessment I grant you, but it is the prevailing knowledge.

Also, please remember this; it’s going come back to bite her in her bass (*obligatory reference achieved*)

“But let me stop you there, oh, before you speak”

You might want to remember this too because she’s about to make a bunch of snap judgments on this guy without exchanging two words with him.

“My name is no/My sign is no/My number is no”

Okay, so this is ACTUALLY a good message to preach. After all, it’s important for everyone – men, women, and otherwise – to know that they have the right to refuse to put up with sexual harassment. I have no problems with this. It’s how she’s going to try to preach this word that bugs me.

Also, and I realize how petty a complaint this is, but has ANYONE worth being taken seriously ever used the phrase ‘what’s your sign’ unironically? I’m sorry, but I hear people treat that like a legit pick-up line and want to immediately want to deduct 20 IQ points.

“First you gonna say you ain’t runnin’ game, thinkin’ I’m believing every word”

That’s a pretty big leap in logic considering you stopped him before he could even speak to you. For all you know, you left your purse at the bar after your third Long Island Iced Ted and he just wants to return it.

“Call me beautiful, so original, telling me I’m not like other girls”

You know what Meg, You’re right. I shouldn’t pay you unoriginal complements. I should just tell you that you’re a sloppy bitch with the face of a bulldog and be on my way.

I understand the feeling of being approached by an undesirable. I really do. But even I’m not such a dick as to throw a legit compliment back in someone’s face. Are you telling me there was no more gentle way to turn this guy down? ESPECIALLY when you consider that you know he’s already so emotionally frail and nervous around you that he needed his friends to encourage him to even speak?

Actually, no. You don’t even KNOW that he was going to pay you a backhanded compliment because you shot him down before he got a word out.

“I was in my zone before you came along, now I’m thinking maybe you should go”

Well, how the hell did I know what you wanted? I’m not psychic; I’m human. We talk and communicate in order to exchange thoughts and ideas. Are you seeing the problem here, yet?

Wait, this song implies that we’re at a club. If you didn’t what to socialize with people, why the F*** are you in a social setting? If you just wanted to get drunk and dance with friends, you could have done that with fewer interruptions and less money with a bottle of rum and your Spotify playlist in your overpriced seaside house in Nantucket, Massachusetts.

“Blah, blah, blah, I be like nah to the ah to the no, no, no”

You know what OTHER phrase makes me deduct IQ points from you? ‘Blah blah blah.’ Not only does it sound childish, but it also implies that the speaker is closed minded and unthinking.

Seriously, Meg, You would have been better off saying ‘Yadda yadda yadda’ at this point.

“All my ladies, listen up/If that boy ain’t giving up/Lick your lips and swing your hips”

HOLY S***, that is TERRIBLE advice!

Girls, listen to me. Generally speaking, directed lip-licking and booty shaking are signs of sexual interest. So when you flirt like that with someone and then IMMEDIATELY shoot them down, you aren’t being some unstoppable valkyrie; you are mercilessly taunting a total stranger.

Now, for the sake of argument, let’s say Trainor is right and this guy IS a massive douchebag trying to get in her pants. What do you think a large, aggressive, primitive thinking and sexually frustrated human is likely to do when the woman of his affections taunts him with the fact that he ain’t getting any?

… Yeah, let that sink in. And if it’s not you because there are too many people around to get away with it, he’ll find someone just like you.

Congratulations, Meg. You just made the Men’s Rights Activists look right. Now we have to deal with even MORE of their ignorant garbage.

“Thank you in advance, I don’t wanna dance/I don’t need your hands all over me/If I want a man, then I’mma get a man/But it’s never my priority”

Okay, I could reiterate how you don’t ACTUALLY know this guy’s intent and the paradox of being anti-social in a social setting, but this is significantly better. We’re back to the message of sexual independence and not owing anyone anything in regards to sex. Awesome. Can we stay on this path?

“I was in my zone, before you came along, don’t want you to take this personal”

Of course not…

Meg, when you flat-out admit that you knew how nervous I was to speak to you, make massive assumptions about my intent, and then actively build up my confidence just to break me down again, HOW AM I TO TAKE THAT ANY OTHER WAY THAN PERSONAL?

Also, please stop saying, “… in my zone.” You’re just reminding me of Kanye West and you have enough problems without being associated with an egomaniacal rapper… though that may be an apt description if you keep on the path you’re on now.

“I’m feeling/Untouchable, untouchable”

And speaking as someone who was routinely targeted by bullies throughout his public school life – including having his hand broken, being thrown head first into a concrete wall, and being wheeled out of school with a concussion – THAT’S when you need to be most on guard.

Nothing will get you in more trouble than acting like you’re indestructible. You start to overestimate yourself and are more likely to treat others as beneath you. All it takes is one person to get sick of your pompous B.S. and you’re headed for a fall.

Also, this bridge is infuriatingly repetitive. Like, to the point where it feels a lot longer than it actually is.


So, all that being said, how should you ACTUALLY handle a pushy prick at the bar?

Well, for starters, be on guard while maintaining a respectful atmosphere. Let them say their piece and if you aren’t interested, politely decline.

If they press the matter, don’t be afraid to seek help. This is something these Faux-Feminist anthems tend to leave out since the authorities that could help (bartenders and bouncers, in this case) are typically men. And, “we can’t have men around to aid the cause of women. That would make us seem hypocritical and won’t sell albums. Sorry, can’t hear your logic and legitimate concerns over the sound of all this MONEY!”

So to conclude the longest rant I’ve ever gone on,  I hate this song and, by extension, the woman who sings it because they promote a ‘us versus them’ mentality to sexual politics, give potentially dangerous advice, and think that the best way to combat gender discrimination is to objectify the other side even more than what they were inflicting on you.

I can’t be the only one that sees the folly in acting like this; emulating the worst aspects of arrogance and cruelty found in the people we can’t stand. Even if you do buy into Trainor’s ‘boys are stupid; throw rocks at them’ mentality, do you really want to live in a world where the only way to be respected as a woman… is to act like a man?

3 Songs You’ve Probably Heard and Loved (But Don’t Remember Where You Heard Them From)

The days before the widespread availability of the internet sucked if you wanted to learn more about something. You’d have to dig through mountains of books, newspapers, magazines, and essays to find leads. Failing that, you’d have to ask your friends who were often just as clueless as you.

These days, it’s as easy as typing a few words into your browser’s search bar. But once upon a time, movies, television, and other media loved to toy with us by slipping awesome music into their stuff and then make us freak out over where they can be found. Sometimes even the credits at the end – if there are any – provide limited information.

So, in remembrance of those days before Heard On TV and TuneFind existed, Here are some tunes that drove us crazy trying to find them.

Electric Worry – Clutch

While I don’t much care for Clutch lyrically (they can be VERY hit or miss), I will contest that they are amazing at creating a beat that’s perfect for kicking some ass to.

That’s probably why the folks behind the game Left 4 Dead 2 used Electric Worry in the TV spots that got everyone hyped for it. It certainly does its job to put you in the mood to slay some zombies.

Still, can you imagine how much of a kick in the cajones it was to get the game and NOT hear it anywhere? I mean, there’s an entire map dedicated to using the A/V gear and pyrotechnics of an abandoned rock concert to signal a rescue. That would have been the perfect time for a great big ‘F*** yeah’ song like that.

O’ Death – Jen Tidus

Now, to the song’s credit, you’ve likely heard this one off of the soundtrack for O’ Brother, Where Art Thou. But that’s not the cover of this classic that my generation remembers. Instead, we associate it with the introduction of Death himself on the series Supernatural.

I think the reason we remember this version so vividly is because of the imagery and tone it evokes. It took a folk song about a man worked to the brink of death begging for one more day and grew that emotion to cover an entire planet pleading with the last horseman of the apocalypse for mercy.

Also, we didn’t have to watch a bunch of  KKK a-holes commit an act of cultural vandalism by stealing and perverting a famous spiritual for this one. I mean, I appreciate the irony of that scene, but it was infuriating to watch.

Release The Beast – Breakwater

I find that one of the most difficult situations to suss out what song I’m listening during to is while listening to a completely different song. That’s not to say that I’m against sampling in music. As we’ve established, I’m a fan of Vaporwave and that genre is based almost entirely around sampled and edited tracks.

But what I am saying is that if it weren’t for sites like WhoSampled to help me out, I would have never known that one of Daft Punk’s most famous songs is just a short loop of a rock/funk fusion track from 1980.

Of course, I’m not trying to belittle the glory that is Robot Rock either. Minimalism is a valid artistic style after all. But that said, I’m glad to have stumbled upon Release The Beast if only to take a look at the shift in the music industry between the 70’s and the 80’s and catch a glimpse of the transition as it happened.

In fact, I encourage you to find out what songs YOU like have sampled other artists and where they got the samples from. You may just learn something about music history in the process.