Friday, December 23, 2011
After a week of kvetching and making fun of holiday music, I thought it would be nice to cap it off with what is probably my favourite contemporary holiday song.
I had been a fan of Meryn Cadell for a while, ("The Sweater," anyone?) but this song just took the cake for me. I don't remember where I was when I first heard "The Cat Carol," but I do remember how I felt.
Here was a song that told of selflessness, a bittersweet salve for the treacle that falls into our ears during this time of year.
Written by Bruce Evans, the song tells the story of a lonely mouse who is lost in the cold during a winter storm. A cat finds the mouse and tells him not to be afraid, that because it is Christmas Eve, "on this freezing night we both need a friend" and invites the mouse to "stay by my side."
Just like some people look forward to Christmas and certain songs or albums that they will listen to, I can't have Christmas without hearing this song. In the midst of mass consumerism, sentimental schlock on television and horrible versions of Christmas classics, I look forward the refuge this song affords at this time of year.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
In honour of this week's holiday songs for people who don't like holiday songs, we would like to take this time to remember Santa Abraham.
If Santa showed up at my house looking like this, it would be a very merry Christmas indeed.
In 2009, after Santa and his elves won a very prestigious prize, he gathered up his friends, including Yo La Tengo, GZA, Bob Mould,
Tegan & Sara, Andrew WK, David
Cross and more to sing that saddening yet uplifting holiday ode "Do They Know It's Christmas?" In keeping with the charitable spirit of original endeavour, this version raised funds for Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Montreal, DTES Power of Women Group in Vancouver and Sisters in Spirit in Ottawa.
We here at Xtra are big fans of Santa, and so we remembered how cool we were in 2009 when we played this record and how we dug out our 12-inch of the original and decided that they were equally good, but for very different reasons.
But before we can thank Santa and ask him if we can rub his belly, he has left to go deliver punk records to the good children of the world (and Nickelback CDs to the bad), then go hug Mrs Claus and his own little elf. Happy holidays to Santa, Mrs Claus and their family and friends.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
In this, my third installment of holiday songs for people who don't like holiday songs, I would like to thank one of my favourite filmmakers, Mr John Waters.
In the spirit of the holiday, I would like to present not a song, but a scene from one of Waters' films. Waters has a bizarre love/hate relationship with holidays: this is a
man who said, "I love Christmas so much I could fuckin' shit." He's even
put out his own Christmas compilation album. But it's in Female Trouble that Waters presents what could be a Norman Rockwell holiday morning, but soon turns into a grotesque Christmas vignette.
In the way that Gremlins or Die Hard is a Christmas movie, I would almost say that Female Trouble is one as well. Although there is only one scene in the film that happens at the most festive time of the year, the holiday hooplah that Waters gives us (as well as the oft-quoted "I better get them cha-cha heels") in this scene makes for a very merry fucking Christmas in my house.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Yesterday, I posted the first in a series of holiday songs for people who don't like holiday songs. This is not to say that I am a grinch, but I do take umbrage over trite sentimentality and the rehashing of nostalgia. I recently heard Justin Bieber doing a cover of "Little Drummer Boy," and that spurred me to write this series of blog posts.
At first I thought of what is probably my favourite left-field version of "Little Drummer Boy."
Is there anything more queer than Grace Jones and Pee-wee Herman (expect maybe Pee-wee and Charo)?
But I don't spend my holidays listening to "Dondé Está Santa Claus?" at my house. It's usually a little bit more earnest.
Hence: Johnny Cash singing "Little Drummer Boy."
There is something honest about the man in black singing holiday tunes. Listening to him sing about the little drummer boy is like listening to the voice of destiny reading your child a bedtime story. Strange yet compelling.
Speaking of strange, Cash apparently loved the holidays enough to produce four holiday specials during the late '70s. His guests ranged from Jerry Lee Lewis to Andy Kaufman. If I can sound like an old fogey, "They don't make shows like they used to." Nope.
So take this, Bieber. Try singing this when your balls drop.
Monday, December 19, 2011
"I wish I had a river I could skate away on . . ."
It's that time of year. When you wish you could drive a stake into the ear of whoever thought playing holiday tunes in November is a good idea. When you start to resent every single store for ruining childhood nostalgia because they're overplaying Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas album. When you think it's wrong that people are covering Christmas songs that appeared in the '90s. I'm looking at you, Glee . . .
But there is a remedy to all of this.
Yes, the song mentions Christmas, with the opening bars referencing "Jingle Bells," but it evokes a desire to forget the world, the noise, everything, and just skate away. The song has been covered by everyone from Beth Orton to Sarah McLachlan and even Robert Downey Jr. Christ, even Glee made one good choice by covering it in the holiday special. Just goes to show: not every holiday song has to be cheery and perfect. Thank fuck.