Each December, when I make my alternative holiday music playlist, I have to cut a few tracks for space. That’s because I’m on the lookout for unusual holiday music all year. I have several gigabytes of seasonal songs on my hard drives, an entire shelf of CDs and lengthy Spotify and YouTube playlists. I also have Firefox bookmarks and sticky notes all over the place, reminding me of songs to look up and places to look for more. And all of the above snowballs during the year.
So when I finalize the list, I often have part of the following year’s playlist ready to go. But you can discover a lot of new stuff in 365 days, so sometimes I’ll find songs I like better, effectively banishing the pre-written selections to the Island of Misfit Tunes. I cannot, in good conscience, do that again. Here are the ones that didn’t quite make it into the 2017 playlist
from the current (Dec. 14, 2017) issue of City Weekly
The Free Design – “Close Your Mouth (It’s Christmas)” from You Could Be Born Again
(Light in the Attic, 2004): Released in 1968, the song and album title together make you wonder if this’ll be a strident, ironic warning to shut our gobs and focus on Jesus. Well, the sunshine pop group does want us to shut up, but only so we can discover “the season has a secret joy that some are missing/ We all could find it if we just once listen.” Wait. That could still mean Jesus. Clarification: “Bring your mind and body back from the store/ Get to know the people in your house/ You might like them.”
Pantychrist – “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” from Riot Grrrl Christmas
(Cleopatra, 2015): Unlike with the last track, the band name and album title let you know from the get-go that this isn’t necessarily gonna be all warm fuzzies (shut up, neckbeards and incels—I know what you’re thinkin’). The punk ladies with the apocalyptic underthings sneer through parody lyrics that say “Christmas is the perfect suicide excuse” and “we all will be together/ if the poison works.” After a minute or so, the fast-paced tune winds down and one of the Pantychrists says, “Is that it? Well, that fuckin’ sucked. I was just gettin' festive. You got a little somethin’ else in that stocking for us? I got a Christmas carol for ya.” So begins a faster, snottier one-minute jam that begins with the line, “All I want for Christmas/ is a case of beer/ to choke down the carols/ with a case of beer!”
The Snowmen – “Hokey Cokey” (single, Slack/Stiff, 1981): Did you know that the “Hokey Pokey” originated in the UK, and this is the actual title? It’d make so much sense—with everybody spazzing out, inserting appendages into the circle and shaking them all about, that it was inspired by cocaine. Then, of course, there’s the name of this mystery band, which was rumored to involve Stiff Records artist Ian Dury (this was never proven). What am I getting at? Well, it couldn’t be more obvious if the band were called The Blowmen. But isn’t this just a silly kids’ tune? Maybe—but maybe not. In New Zealand, it’s called the “Hokey Tokey.” I wonder what that’s all about.