Anti-Christmas songs, Christmas Aguilera, Classic Pat, Die Hard, Edward O'Connell, Four Eyes, Hans Gruber, Holiday music, Make Like Monkees, Mike Weatherford, The Happy Somethings, The Jac, The Non-Traditionals, The Photocopies
Welcome to what appears will be an annual post of music for people who hate the holidays. Last year’s edition of Bah Humbug stumbled upon a veritable treasure-trove of holiday-hating should-be hits. It was all a bit shocking but still delightful. I mean, personally, I’m a sucker for holiday tunes yet I can’t help but admire the dedication and intensity of the anti-holiday crowd. And the comedy. The antis have definitely got a healthy disregard for the more sickly sweet seasonal sentiments. To honour all this disdain, it only seems fitting to draw inspiration from that Christmas movie for people who hate Christmas movies, Die Hard. So get your Grinch on and open your ears for Bah humbug, the Hans Gruber edition.
We kick things off with some jangle, naturally, because surely if ever there was a holiday guitar sound it would have to be the Rickenbacker 12 string. Joe Algeri’s The JAC (and the Christmas Crew) project crank up the Byrds influences to launch their anti-materialist “I Don’t Want Your Presents” and even give a shout out to Canada. Honestly the song is not so much anti-holiday as anti-consumerist but given that it attacks a key element of the holy trinity of modern Christmas (e.g. Santa, presents, and that historical dude having a birthday) it goes into the ‘anti’ lock-up. It’s just one of a load of great Christmas-critical tunes on their Just Not Quite … A Christmas Album (Vol. 2). Classic Pat strikes a different note of holiday misgiving with “I Got What I Wanted for Christmas.” Poor Pat. He’s got the girl, it’s Christmas morning, only he’s having second thoughts about the whole ‘I love you’ thing. Definitely awkward. Power pop workaholics The Photocopies aren’t taking a break this season but don’t be fooled by their seasonally-titled Cheer Up, It’s Christmas EP. More like Merry F-ing Xmas. In one song the protagonist takes 37 seconds to confront and dump a cheating partner while in another they ooze desperate holiday insecurity about being alone on Christmas day. But the music is pretty peppy. “Christmas Alone” vibes a bit of “Crimson and Clover” in the very best way. Being down never sounded so good.
NYC’s Make Like Monkees are holiday mad. Just try counting up all the Christmas tunes on their multiple Bandcamp pages. Seemingly no aspect of the holiday scene goes unsung about, good or bad. “Christmas Hit-n-Run” is particularly lyrically brutal, with lines like ‘you’re the worst the gift I have got’ and ‘you’re everything a good gift’s not’. Ouch! But more from MLM later on. Mike Weatherford’s ramshackle ode “All I Want For Christmas is You (To Leave Me Alone)” is loaded with anti-Christmas sentiment but what makes it special is its comic timing. Again and again he turns what sounds like his initial lyrical meaning upside down. Ah, the burn. The Happy Somethings are anything but this season with three different versions of their self-described ‘jolly miserabilist festive ditty’ “It’s Christmas Time (We’re Miserable as Sin).” We’re featuring the ‘bah humbug’ version, naturally. And then Edward O’Connell captures a yuletide spirit I can really relate to with “MFC.” That stands for ‘merry effing xmas,’ pardon my French. Growing up, rarely did the season pass in my house without that expletive phrase putting in an appearance.
Our next three Christmas critics have all got a love/hate thing going on about the holidays which they regularly set to music. Christmas Aguilera put a new seasonal single out every year to raise money to end homelessness and poor housing. “This Sky” draws attention to how many people face a stark reality of rising bills and housing uncertainty, even as others throw back another rum and eggnog. Another holiday song machine is Rotterdam’s The Non-Traditionals. With pop culture-riffing album titles like Ok Christmas and All the Jingle Ladies they’re not a serious lot. Or aren’t they? Their ambitious proposal to gather up every “Plastic Tree” and burn them is either an inspired bit of political and environmental direct action or a recipe for very poor air quality. Leaning into the organ Make Like Monkees return now to pretty much kill the Christmas spirit with their revelation that “Santa Claus is Dead.” Hard to recover any festive bonhomie after that.
We wrap up this hate-the-holidays telethon where we began – with Hans. Can anybody really match his contempt for Christmas? Instead of giving the guy is focused on taking: the money, whatever Christmas Eve good feeling they were cooking up at the Nakatomi tower, and more than a few lives along the way. Luckily we have a song that perfectly captures all this and more from Athens, Georgia sparse-folkie Four Eyes. “Everything Will Change This Christmas: The Ballad of Hans Gruber” is a brilliant Freedom Fry-like rumination on the true meaning of Gruber, how he brings a special ennui and FU to holiday time. Really, Christmas isn’t complete without him.
You’re welcome, all you merry misanthropes. Turns out there is a crapping-all-over-Christmas playlist designed especially for you. Even if your heart really is two sizes too small, you needn’t just grind your teeth in silence anymore. Now you can sing out ‘bah humbug’ for all to hear!