Firing up the ol' "What's Your Favorite Christmas Song?" debate is a good way to get your ass kicked, either by murderous anti-Paul McCartney thugs or sneering grinches who despise holiday tuneage en masse. Santa will bequeath the dreaded Gas Face to both parties, hopefully. The following Yuletide playlist is by no means comprehensive -- consider it merely a selection of what'll be ringing in Down in Front's ears as he annihilates whole French silk pies with military precision. As Bill O'Reilly would say, "Have a good one."
Vince Guaraldi Trio, "Christmas Time Is Here"
Best Shit Ever (Overall Category). A Charlie Brown Christmas, as perhaps you've heard, is the single greatest album of all time, and this is that record's zenith, out-of-tune children's choir and all. Long-faced Quarter-Life-Crisis victims often cite this as the ultimate bittersweet Christmas tune, evoking childhood innocence while underscoring that said innocence is now gone forever. Tell it to your blog, Charlie Brown.
The Kinks, "Father Christmas"
Best Shit Ever (Rock Category). Because too few holiday anthems reference machine guns and include We'll beat you up in the chorus. A thug anthem with a touching moral preaching charity and compassion. Bonus fact: I used to think this was by Sting.
Porky Pig, "Blue Christmas"
Best Shit Ever (Humor Category). Well, not the Porky Pig. From the sound of this quickie clip, it's some standup comedian flaunting a rather impressive impersonation for a godforsaken club with five people in it. But one crowd member has the most ridiculously infectious laugh ever -- consider yourself lucky if you ever find anything as humorous as that guy does this song. A morning talk-show staple for years; fire up Blueyze.com/bluechristmas.html and be thoroughly amused.
Paul McCartney, "Wonderful Christmastime"
Best Shit Ever (Schmaltz Category). I am aware that this song is objectively awful, its treacly Siiimply! Haaavin'! A wonderful Christmastime! chorus grounds for homicide in 38 states (not California, of course). But perhaps my nonetheless enduring love for it -- associated forever with big, fat, hypnotically blinking Christmas lights -- is evidence of the holiday mystique's magical ability to turn cheese into wine. Its superiority to John Lennon's "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" is both ludicrous and undeniable.
Porno for Pyros, "Pete's Dad"
Best Shit Ever (Alt-Rock Category). Yes, Perry Farrell's ill-fated mid-'90s side project did a Christmas song. Yes, it mostly sucks, though the situation it describes -- doctors call to inform the titular character he no longer has cancer as he's entertaining guests on Christmas Day -- is heartwarming enough. But "Pete's Dad" deserves specific praise for the most underrated opening line in the yuletide canon: Well it's Christmas and it's Chanukah/Jews and Italians/Live very much alike/I like Italian food.
Barenaked Ladies/Sarah McLachlan, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."
Best Shit Ever (Mom Category). Fine, fine, it's your house.
Slackjaw, "Christmastime in Painesville"
Best Shit Ever (Obscure Midwestern Category). Painesville is a dead-end city in Ohio; Slackjaw was a dead-end rock band from Ohio. It's entirely possible this song has never been audible west of the Mississippi. Too bad.
John Denver and the Muppets,
"Little Saint Nick"
Best Shit Ever (Jim Henson Category). I associate Kermit the Frog with Christmas every bit as much as, say, Jesus. The ballads on Denver and Fozzie's landmark collaboration A Christmas Together are particularly moving, but with apologies to the Beach Boys, this "Saint Nick" is where it's at, if only for Animal's Run! Run! Run! Yeah! cameo.
Frank Sinatra, "Christmas Waltz"
Best Shit Ever (Crooner Category). I casually mentioned Christmas music to a friend of mine via IM, and soon found myself bombarded by fun facts ("Burl Ives was a fascist dick face") in addition to several of his favorite tunes, mostly deified golden throats (Dean Martin, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder, Augie Rios) waxing melancholic as overwrought choirs (primarily female) cooed behind them. Splendid, but don't bother stepping to Frank in this arena -- he mentions this song's time signature in the chorus, and it's still mesmerizing. Rest assured those overwrought choral ladies got a little dewier. "I bet he was bangin' every one of them, too," my friend noted.
Death Cab for Cutie, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"
Best Shit Ever (Emo Category). Culled from the ongoing Maybe This Christmas series -- corralling indie big-shots from the Flaming Lips to Rilo Kiley to Pedro the Lion -- what's remarkable here is how naturally Death Cab sounds so weepy and melodramatic, how similar this tune sounds to the rest of the band's oeuvre. And then it hits you: Basically, emo is secular, non-time-sensitive Christmas music. Just change some words around. Try "The Sound of Settling": Ho-ho! This is the sound of caroling! Ho-ho! Ho-ho! Ho-ho!
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