Yule be sorry

Little gifts lurk among holiday horrors
By MICHAEL BRODEUR  |  December 12, 2008

081212_holiday_main
Around this most wonderful time of 1992, I was ready to pull out my mushroom cut upon hearing the Cocteau Twins' stupid version of "Frosty the Snowman" for the first time. Don't get me wrong, I was way into Christmas, way into the Cocteaus — but the meeting of the two struck me as not right, almost animatronic. I should have known better. It eventually occurred to me that most if not all of the Christmas music I listened to, I did so in the service of some ulterior message. I used Vince Guaraldi to overcompensate for my disdain for my parents' Mannheim Steamroller discs. I wrung endless ironic belly laughs from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra years before they were the de facto soundtrack to the world's premier Christmas-light displays. And this year, I'll tell my aunt that the Sarah Brightman Winter Symphony (Manhattan) promo I'm giving her is totally awesome.

Over time, I've developed some serious carol anxiety. Like a mother bird, once someone has handled the classics of the holiday and gotten them all dirty, I want nothing to do with them anymore. Unfortunately, my occupation is such that I have no choice but to be made aware of every seasonal atrocity destined for store shelves, stockings, and, ultimately, the darkest chimneys of your subconscious. I've done something I thought couldn't be done and listened to a bunch of them, and I was pleased to find that among heaps of releases that give me a profound understanding of why silent nights are so highly valued this time of year, there are a few treats under the tree — and they aren't bits of Blitzen poop.

Case in point: the new Boxmasters collection, Christmas Cheer (Vanguard). A solid half-hour of jangle-belled countrified carolage with an inbuilt goofball element, so there's not a whole lot of integrity at stake, even when they misstep (like their Uncle-Billy-at-Countryoke take on "Silver Bells"). The miracle here isn't just that Billy Bob Thornton's band have created something worthwhile, it's that someone who looks as if he'd been beaten with a sled has a better chance of delivering Yuletide joy this year than Elvis. Yes, Christmas Duets (Sony/Legacy) finds the disembodied King traipsing through intensely gaudy arrangements with the almost-as-corpsy vocals of Underwood, McBride, and (gasp!) Newton-John. Reanimated talent is creepy, true, but it's also been done enough that it's forgivable. But the remedial glock solo from "I'll Be Home for Christmas" is not. I mean, why even get the glock out if it's gone be like that?

As someone who thinks Jack Johnson might make a great projectile, I was surprised to like This Warm December Vol. 1, a Christmas compilation issued by his Brushfire Records and featuring Money Mark, Rogue Wave, Neil Halstead, and (gasp again!) G. Love dealing out a sackful of substantial originals and charming standards — though Mason Jennings's drab take on "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" sounds as if it were about a dead golden retriever. Elsewhere in comp land, there's All Wrapped Up (Hollywood), with tracks by Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, and Jordan Pruitt. Warning: it may have you envying the Duraflame's slow immolation in the hearth.

1  |  2  |   next >
Related: Carla Bley | Carla's Christmas Carols, Broadway at Good Theater at the St. Lawrence, December 5, Bring the trauma, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Entertainment, Music, Pop and Rock Music,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY MICHAEL BRODEUR
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   FOLK ACT  |  June 26, 2010
    Vikesh Kapoor
  •   BOSTON PRIDE WEEK: OFF THE MAP  |  June 07, 2010
    We may seem a little cranky, but us local gayfolk just love a parade, and we’re actually heartened by this annual influx of brothers and sisters from every state of New England and every letter of our ever-expanding acronym.  
  •   THE NEW GAY BARS  |  June 02, 2010
    If I may channel the late, great Estelle Getty for a moment: picture it, Provincetown, 2009, a dashing young man with no discernible tan and an iffy T-Mobile signal languishes bored upon the sprawling patio of the Boatslip Resort.
  •   ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITI | BEFORE TODAY  |  June 01, 2010
    If the gradual polishing of Ariel Pink’s sound — and it’s not all that much more polished — puts his loyalists at odds with his albums, I count that as good news.
  •   MORE THAN HUMAN  |  May 26, 2010
    It’s hard to talk about Janelle Monáe when your jaw’s fallen off.

 See all articles by: MICHAEL BRODEUR