Braden Blake and the Oh Wells, Brent Seavers, Charly Bliss, John Dunbar, Joseph Bradshaw, Kris Rogers and the Dirty Gems, Michael M, Nicholas Altobelli, Richard Turgeon, Slow Club, The Mixtapes, Trixie Mattel
Every year I laud the holiday spirit in tunes. But what about all those people who can’t stand the holidays, or, more specifically, holiday music? Don’t they deserve a special post celebrating their anti-celebration sentiments? If you’re still reading you’ve probably worked out that this year the answer is ‘yes’. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far. Turns out this whole anti-holidays thing has its own genre of music. Yup, they’re a pretty creative bunch of misanthropes too. And just cuz they’re cranky about Christmas doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a downer. So get ready to rock the ‘down with yuletide’ vibe!
I’ve got to start this themed post with Nicholas Altobelli, whose brand new “I Hate Christmas Without U” got me started down this track. He’s giving maximum mellow on this low key Christmas complaint tune. It starts punchy with a great weird organ sound before turning more intimate, ornamented with some nice guitar runs and heavenly background vocals. It’s not in-your-face fist-pumping stuff but there’s a subtle hypnotic allure that keeps me hitting replay.
Altobelli’s contribution is actually emblematic of a distinct sub-genre of holiday complaint music, the ‘I hate holidays because I’m lonely’ song. With these tunes it’s pretty clear that the real issue is not so much the holidays as it is facing them alone. Charly Bliss get to this point rather directly on their thoroughly power pop “It’s Christmas and I Fucking Miss You.” Kris Rogers and the Dirty Gems take a more Americana poprock approach to a similar sentiment on “Can’t Spend Another Christmas (Without You).” Now nobody does holiday ennui better than country artists and drag artist Trixie Mattel captures those mixed feelings on the wonderfully understated, occasionally comic “Christmas Without You.” Braden Blake and the Oh Wells so nail the Grinch musical backdrop in kicking off their “Bittersweet Noel” before shifting to a more Fountains of Wayne hooky ode to loneliness. It’s from a consistently sad sack brand new seasonal EP called Satin Bows (and Arrows) where feeling bad never sounded so good. And then there’s The Mixtapes who don’t seem anti-holidays at all as much as looking for anything to blot out the heartache that is only obliquely referenced on “Broken Hearted Christmas.” So, sure, they sound like they’re really into the season but it’s pretty clear that’s just a dodge.
Now we turn to the serious Grinches on the anti-holiday front. These guys have a ‘tude’ and hooks to spare. Starting with Richard Turgeon,“Skippin’ Christmas” gives voice to those exhausted by all the forced festive bonhomie. The track is both hilarious and jangly-melodic in a addictive Brydsian sort of way. I ran across Slow Club when I noticed the multitude of covers of their song “Christmas TV.” But that’s not even the highlight for me from their anti-holidays EP of tunes, appropriately entitled Christmas, Thanks for Nothing. The collection covers off Christmas lonliness, a spirited cover of Darlene Love’s “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home,” a raucous, decidedly unsilent “Silent Night,” and my personal fave “It’s Christmas and You’re Boring Me.” Probably the most unique deferred break-up song in a Christmas setting – and that’s an award category if ever there was one. John Sally Ride member John Dunbar has put together a holiday song from a point of view that seldom gets attention, that of the empty nester with no one left around to buy for. “He Has No One To Buy Gifts For Anymore” has a rather sad theme but is delivered in peppy style, with some cool organ and a very Michael Penn vocal delivery. Brent Seavers has got the holiday blues and just can’t get any Christmas inspiration going. Sure, he’s missing some special someone but it’s more than that. On “It’s Christmas” Seaver works a Lennon-esque tune and sentiment that leaves us wondering where he’s ended up by the end of the song. Maybe he’s found his “blessings all around” but I’m leaving him in the holiday-agnostic camp for now. Joseph Bradshaw draws on a classic American Songbook style for “Santa Claus Can Keep His Bag.” It’s another ‘you ain’t here so I’m pouting about Christmas’ song but Bradshaw does it with such class, it’s worthy of your seasonal appreciation. From his brief but punchy EP Xmas.
Wrapping things up (not literally, we’re against gifts in this post), the record that definitely inspired me to get keep this anti-holidays theme going, Michael M’s brilliant and hilarious EP A Digital Christmas Gift For You. With songs titles like “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (Which Directly Contravenes All Social Distancing Guidelines)” and “Baby I’ll Zoom You This Christmas” it would be easy to see the whole affair as just a timely send up. But this record is no joke. The songwriting is strong and hooky, with sudden punky interludes interspersed here and there. Opening cut “Humans Are Not Worth Saving (Merry Christmas)” is a delightful slice of Futureheads discordant pop with a sly dose of stinging social commentary mixed in (click back from track 2 below using the reverse arrow). And the genius bonus cut is the note perfect cover of McCartney’s holiday song, reduced to a single line of its lyrics. Hilarious and oh so cutting.
Well there you have it. Proof you can whistle a merry tune about hating the holidays. It’s your time to shine bah-humbuggers! Support the artists not supporting mandatory holiday cheer by visiting them online (no gifts required, just $).
The ‘Bah Humbug’ banner-post graphic above was designed by Aled Lewis. It can be purchased as Christmas card here.