Blog Archives

Weirdify Playlist 12: Whack Christmas

Whack Christmas

It’s been way too long since we did a new Weirdify playlist, but there’s no better occasion for getting into the back into the swing of things than Christmas. You either love holiday music or you hate it—and if you’re like us, your opinion on the subject probably swings wildly between those two extremes depending on what they’re playing while you’re picking up your Zoloft at CVS. (Please, baby Jesus, no more Mariah Carey.)

Fortunately, there are approximately five gazillion metric fuck-tons of holiday and Christmas-themed recordings to choose from, and many—most, even—don’t involve Grandmas getting run over by reindeers or old classics getting run over by the melisma of former American Idol contestants.

So with our patron saint, Frank Zappa*, as our guide, we dove into Spotify with all the shopping-cart-filling zeal of a Black Friday shopper at Wal-Mart to bring you our final Spotify mix of 2012: “Whack Christmas.” It’s what we’re dreaming of. Soon, it’s what you’ll be dreaming of, too. Especially when you get to “Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey.” That shit is catchy!

Giddy up, giddy up, let’s go! (That’s Christmas-speak for, “Launch your Spotify player.” Or use the embedded player below. Cuz Spotify finally lets you do that now.)

*There’s no Frank Zappa on Spotify and, to the best of our knowledge, he never recorded any Christmas music. But if one of you Frank-ophiles out there cares to correct us, we’ll happily link to whatever Santa-related sonic mayhem he may have concocted.

Some notes on your listening experience:

1. Capital Kings, “Carol of the Bells.” You didn’t think we’d ease you into this mix gently, did you? Fuck no. You’re gonna start with a dubstep version of the most melodramatic Christmas carol of all time. When the bass drop hits, try crushing a carton of eggnog on your forehead. You’re feelin’ it now, bro!

2. Ronnie James Dio, Tommy Iommi, Rudy Sarzo, Simon Wright, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” This is from an album called We Wish You a Metal Xmas…and a Headbanging New Year! Need we say more? R.I.P., Holy Diver. (P.S. There might be another track from this album later in the mix. But you’ll just have to stick around to find out.)

3. Wesley Willis, “Merry Christmas.” I bet Wesley Willis gave great Christmas gifts. Or at least great Christmas head butts. We like this holiday a lot, too, Wesley!

4. Johnny MacRae, “Here Comes Fatty Claus.” You can find this on a delightful collection—sadly, not available on Spotify—called A John Waters Christmas. It kinda does for Christmas what Pink Flamingos did for overweight transvestites.

5. Randall Reed with the Forerunners, “The Peppermint Stick Man.” This unintentionally (we hope) child molestery Xmas original is from another worthy compilation called The American Song-Poem Christmas, a collection of amateur one-off singles recorded by would-be singer-songwriters and (we presume) very, very depressed session musicians. Here’s a tip for all you aspiring writers of children’s songs: Never use the word “erect” in a lyric.

6. Bob Dylan, “Here Comes Santa Claus.” Did you know Dylan released a Christmas album a few years back? It’s true. He also apparently smoked a carton of unfiltered Camels right before the recording sessions.

7. Afroman, “Police Blow My Wad.” This early ’00s novelty rapper took all the royalties from his one and only hit, “Because I Got High,” and blew them on a holiday album called A Colt 45 Christmas. And weed. Probably mostly on weed. This one is set to the tune of “Feliz Navidad”…get it? No? Smoke a bowl first and it’s hilarious. Trust us.

8. Elf-Elf and Dok-Im, “My Christmas Bells (Elf Vocal).” This might be Jake’s favorite rap song ever. Mashed potatoes!

9. The Jingle Punx, “It’s What I Got in My Sack.” Is there any better cure for too much shitty Christmas music than some good old-fashioned snot-punk? Also, he said “sack.” Heh-heh.

10. The Vandals, “I Don’t Believe in Santa Claus.” Next time someone asks you, “Hey, what’d you get me for Christmas?”…just play them this song. Unless you actually got them something. In that case…you know what? Play it anyway. ‘Cuz The Vandals rule.

11. Nerf Herder, “I’ve Got a Boner for Christmas.” Who needs “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” when we’ve got this romantic Yuletide ditty to keep us warm? Did you know “stocking” rhymes with “cock in”? Well, it doesn’t, really, but who cares? Let’s all get laid for Christmas!

12. Edmund Welles, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Think of this as a little post-punk palette cleanser, courtesy of our favorite all-bass clarinet ensemble. Not weird, per se, but gosh-darned purty.

13. Tiny Tim, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Another track from A John Waters Christmas, starring the world’s greatest ukulele-strumming, falsetto-voiced, late-night TV cult hero. This old Christmas chestnut takes on new life when it’s sung by someone who sounds like he’s gargling with angels’ tears.

14. British Summer Time Ends, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” As we point out frequently on this blog: The ’80s were a weird decade. This track appears on a random 1987 compilation called Joyeux Noel that features John Zorn and a bunch of other bands we’d never heard of, including these British Summer Time Ends guys. We tried Googling them for like two hours and all we could come up with was this. If anyone knows more about them, share, please! ‘Cause this version of “I Saw Mommy” is pretty great.

15. Lou Monte, “Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey.” This 1960 novelty song regularly shows up on “Worst Christmas Songs Ever” lists. Which we think is pretty unfair, actually. When shit like our next song is still in circulation…

16. Bobby Boris Pickett, “Monster’s Holiday.” To be fair, it must have sucked being Bobby Boris Pickett. That dude was doomed to forever rehash his one and only hit. Still, can you imagine if today’s acts released Christmas-themed cash grabs this shameless? Oh, wait, they do. Don’t worry, we won’t taint this mix with any of that Bieber shit. We’ve got a much cooler child pop star…

17. Gayla Peevey, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” Little Gayla Peevey was only 10 years old when she recorded this novelty hit in 1953. By 18, she was a Lindsay Lohan-like coke whore running over valets outside Hollywood’s sleaziest nightclubs. Kidding! Actually, she changed her name to Jamie Horton and released a song called “Robot Man.” Beat that, Miley Cyrus.

18. RuPaul, “Santa Baby.” A drag queen singing a seduction song to Jolly Saint Nick? Sure, why the hell not? Much like RuPaul’s Drag Race (seriously, how is that thing on its fifth season?), it wears out its welcome pretty quickly, but hey, that’s what the skip button is for.

19. The Superions, “Crummy Christmas Tree.” So long as we’re in camp mode, let’s throw in a track by B-52′s frontman Fred Schneider’s Xmas-themed side project. If that sad tree from the Charlie Brown Christmas specials could sing…it would sound exactly like Fred Schneider. Who knew?

20. The Avalanches, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” There’s a whole, massive subgenre of surf-rock/beach-themed Christmas music, most of which is, frankly, kinda lame. But this instrumental version of the date-rapiest of holiday standards is kinda groovy, isn’t it?

21. The Klezmonauts, “Joy to the World.” Hey, all you “War on Christmas” conspiracy theorists, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: Most Jews actually love Christmas. Not the Jesusy, away-in-a-manger stuff so much. But Santa, the presents, the tree, the eggnog—they’re totally down. Neil Diamond didn’t record A Cherry Cherry Christmas because his Christian overlords at Columbia Records were holding a gun to his head. We’re sure the same holds true for The Klezmonauts, who recorded an entire album of klezmer-styled holiday standards under the obvious but genius title of Oy to the World. It’s like a delicious Hanukkah latke topped with figgy pudding instead of apple sauce.

22. Family Force 5, “Little Drummer Boy.” We interrupt this mix for a little Christian crunk rock. There’s actually an entire album of this shit, The Family Force 5 Christmas Pageant. But because we love you so much, we’re only gonna share with you this, the shortest track on the record. You’re welcome.

23. Soul Saints Orchestra, “Santa’s Got a Bag of Soul.” Let’s get the horrible sound of crunk rock out of our ears with a little funky ’70s soul, shall we? This is from an outstanding collection of rare-groove Christmas records called In the Christmas Groove. And we really can’t play it without playing the man it’s obviously cribbing from…

24. James Brown, “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto.” This isn’t even really the Godfather of Soul’s weirdest Christmas track…but we’re including it anyway, because it’s awesome.

25. Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, “Jingle Bells.” A reader named Trey suggested we check out Bela Fleck’s Jingle All the Way album. “Not the weirdest but definitely different,” he said. And honestly, we were skeptical—but then we stumbled across this banjo-and-throat-singing version of “Jingle Bells” and we were like, “Holy shit, Trey. You are a master of understatement.”

26. Alice Cooper, Billy Sheehan, John 5, Vinny Appice, “Santa Claus (Claws) Is Coming to Town.” OK, fine, we’ll throw in another track from We Wish You a Metal Xmas. Even though you’ve all been very naughty. We’ve got a list, too, y’know.

27. Psychostick, “Jingle Bell Metal.” You didn’t think we’d get through this whole mix without throwing in at least one metalcore freakout, did you? You know us better than that.

28. Insane Clown Posse, “Red Christmas.” Or an ICP song. There’s also gotta be an ICP song. Whether you like it or not. And we know that secretly, you kinda like it. It’s okay, we do, too. “I’m dreaming of a dead Christmas…”

29. Doctor Octoroc, “Have Yourself a Little Final Fantasy.” From the album 8-Bit Jesus. ‘Nuff said.

30. DEVO, “Merry Something to You.” When a Yuletide comes along, you must whip it. We spent about an hour throwing DEVO puns around and that was the best we could come up with. Sorry.

31. Heather Noel, “Santa Came on a Nuclear Missile.” We went back to the The American Song-Poem Christmas well for this bizarre little Cold War-era artifact. Ah, those were the days.

32. William Hung, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Among the many reasons American Idol sucks worse than ever these days, there’s this: That show has never produced another would-be contestant as delightfully terrible as William James Hung Hing Cheong. If it was nothing but tone-deaf wannabes with humorous foreign accents, we’d watch that shit all the time.

33. Eban Schletter, “Carol of the Bells.” When he’s not composing music for shows like Spongebob Squarepants, Eban Schletter records bizarre concept albums like Cosmic Christmas, which has something to do with a satellite that brings the spirit of Christmas to alien civilizations, but is mostly just an excuse for him to do theremin-and-analog-synth covers of old holiday warhorses like “Carol of the Bells.” Cosmic, man!

34. Angry Snowmans, “Drinkin’ Rum & Egg Nog.” A reader named David really wanted us to feature these guys. So here you go, David! Just remember to drink responsibly: After your fifth rum & eggnog, switch to brandy & eggnog.

35. MDC, “Black Christmas.” A little holiday nihilism, courtesy of the Bay Area punk band known alternately as Millions of Dead Cops or Multi-Death Corporation. On second thought, David, go ahead and drink yourself into oblivion. Damn, we’re all depressed now. But hey, I bet I know what would cheer us up…

36. Jingle Cats, “White Christmas.” Nope, that really didn’t help at all. Let’s try something else…

37. Sparks, “Thank God It’s Not Christmas.” Ah, much better. This is the venerable art-pop duo Sparks in full ’70s glam-rock mode. We’re not even sure what it really has to do with Christmas, but it’s just a great song.

38. The Polyphonic Spree, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Tim DeLaughter’s orchestral rock ensemble in full-on psych-rock mode, from their new Christmas collection, Holidaydream. If more Christmas carols were this creepy and minor-key, the holiday music at the mall might actually be bearable.

39. The Flaming Lips, “A Change at Christmas (Say It Isn’t So).” This isn’t really the Lips at their weirdest. But it’s certainly Wayne Coyne at his most awkwardly sincere. You’re not just a dreamer, Wayne. We believe it can all change! Even here at Weird Band HQ, we’re not above a little peace-on-earth sentimentality. In fact, after all the shitty Top 40 versions of “Frosty the Snowman” have faded, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

40. Barnes & Barnes, “I Had Sex With Santa.” Well, that and a few cheap laughs. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!

About these ads

Weirdify Playlist 8: Covers for Kooks

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Nothing announces your weirdness to the world better than a really demented version of a familiar song. It’s like saying, “You know how this song sounded in its original form? We’re the total opposite of that. Or we might just be YouTube whores hoping to score a few extra views with our medley of Lady Gaga songs played on bassoons.* Either way, are we wacky or what?”

Here, then, is a brief Spotify playlist of some of our favorite weird cover songs, from bands that rank high on the Weird List, bands that probably should be on the Weird List, and a few bands that are by no stretch of the imagination weird, but cool enough to include, anyway (you’re welcome, Ben Folds). Obviously, this list only scratches the surface of the vast universe of weird covers, and we’ll probably revisit it at some point. Probably with less Led Zeppelin. Although we make no promises on that.

(*Sadly, The Breaking Winds’ Lady Gaga medley is not available on Spotify and thus, not on this playlist. We’re not made of magic, people!)

1. Laibach, “Sympathy for the Devil.” Taking a familiar song from the classic rock canon and declaiming it like some pretentious dorkwad at a poetry slam is the oldest trick in the weird-cover-tune book (I was tempted to include William Shatner’s “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” arguably the definitive example, but I’m pretty you’ve all heard it). But something about Laibach’s gravelly, Teutonic spin on the Rolling Stones’ old pseudo-Satanic jam makes it sound like the most original idea in the world.

2. Ben Folds, “Bitches Ain’t Shit.” Another well-worn cover trick is the painfully white version of a familiar hip-hop/R&B song (see also: The Gourds’ “Gin and Juice,” Jonathan Coulton’s “Baby Got Back,” etc.). In this case, Ben Folds’ version of Snoop and Dr. Dre’s misogynistic anthem stands out for me, mostly because it finds an unexpected core of heartache and melancholy underneath all the posturing. It’s the softer side of gangsta rap.

3. Hurra Torpedo, “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Norway’s favorite kitchen appliance rockers give Bonnie Tyler’s ridiculous ’80s power ballad the beating it so richly deserves.

4. Tragedy, “More Than a Woman.” Tragedy do one thing, and they do it well: Hair metal covers of Bee Gees songs. Any questions? Moving on…

5. Metalachi, “Immigrant Song.” Another high-concept cover band, Metalachi do mariachi versions of metal songs. Most of it works better than you might expect—but even when it doesn’t quite work, as on this hilarious Hindenburg of a Led Zeppelin cover, the results are still pretty fantastic.

6. Nouvelle Vague, “God Save the Queen.” If you’ve ever heard one of your favorite ’80s songs transformed into a lilting bossa nova ballad, you’ve heard Nouvelle Vague, a French/English cover band whose versions of  Gen X oldies like “Melt With You” and “Dancing With Myself” have been licensed to death. Their catalog tends to be a little too hipster-wedding-soundtrack for our purposes, but this pretty acoustic Sex Pistols cover is just left-field enough to make Johnny Rotten hurl in his grave. Which, in a way, makes it possibly the most punk-rock Sex Pistols cover of all time.

7. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, “Fire and Rain.” The flipside to the pretty Sex Pistols cover is, of course, a punk-rock cover of a James Taylor song. Me First, a “supergroup” side project featuring members of NOFX, Foo Fighters and the Swingin’ Utters, have run the unexpected-punk-cover concept so far into the ground that they’re now covering Japanese bands, but something about a rockin’ “Fire and Rain” still makes us giggle like Beavis and Butt-Head.

8. Edmund Welles, “Big Bottom.” Yes, this is a Spinal Tap cover played entirely on bass clarinets. And yes, it goes to 11.

9. The Bad Plus, “Barracuda.” We should hasten to point out that The Bad Plus, a power-jazz trio from Minnesota, have done killer instrumental versions of several familiar pop and classic rock tunes. This track, however, is not one of them. Have you lost the singer yet, guys? You have? The jazz gods be praised.

10. Richard Cheese, “Baby Got Back.” With all due respect to Jonathan Coulton’s delightful version of this same Sir Mix-a-Lot classic, we highly prefer Richard Cheese’s lounge lizard take (also, the cover of his best-of album, The Sunny Side of the Moon, was too good not steal for our playlist artwork). And in case you’re noticing a theme between this and “Big Bottom”: Yes, we do like big butts and we cannot lie.

11. Señor Coconut, “Smoke on the Water.” This dude has worked his cha-cha magic on everything from Kraftwerk to Prince. But since we decided to take this playlist in more of a classic-rock direction, nothing says “geriatric DJs spinning classic-rock steez” more than a little Deep Purple.

12. The Moog Cookbook, “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.” Van Halen played on vintage synths! OK, Van Halen themselves did this on 1984, but there’s still something pretty unsettling about hearing a programmed robot voice intoning, “If you want it, got to plead for it, baby.”

13. Dread Zeppelin, “Whole Lotta Love.” Possibly the most high-concept tribute band of all time (and yes, we have dropped the ball by not adding them to the Weird List yet), Dread Zeppelin play reggae versions of Led Zeppelin songs, as sung by an Elvis impersonator. Mercy.

14. Tiny Tim, “I Love Rock and Roll.” At the height of his popularity, Tiny Tim turned his quivering falsetto loose on any number of popular songs, from “On the Good Ship Lollipop” to “I Got You, Babe.” And while his falsetto is indeed a marvel, it sounds downright quaint compared to the Tom Jones-like bray he unleashed on Chameleon, an overlooked 1980 oddity that features this amazing version of the song made famous by Joan Jett. Honestly, you don’t have to listen to the whole thing, unless you really want to hear what it sounds like when an aging eccentric bludgeons a song to death as though it’s solely responsible for the decline of his career.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s mix.

Edmund Welles

Ever since Kronos Quartet tackled Hendrix back in the ’80s, classically trained musicians have been trying to prove that their cellos and oboes are more than just museum pieces, good for wheezing out dusty old “Concertos in B Flat Minor” and not much else. So they trot out string quartet versions of Radiohead, or even Lady Gaga medleys for bassoon, and…well, okay, the Lady Gaga bassoon ensemble, the Breaking Winds, is actually kinda cool. But they’re the exception. Most of this stuff just sounds like a slightly classed-up version of Muzak.

So when a friend and reader named Josh (sup, Josh?) suggested that we check out his buddy’s “heavy chamber music” quartet, we have to admit, we were skeptical. Classical musicians doing heavy metal covers? Apocalyptica covered that territory 15 years ago. Moving on.

Then we actually heard Edmund Welles—which is a band, not a person (the name is a Monty Python reference…I mean, not that I would know that without having to look it up…okay, maybe I would)—and, well, let’s just put it this way: The bass clarinet is an inherently weird instrument. Put four of them together in one group, and it sounds like a chorus of demon cats in heat fighting over a chicken bone. A demon chorus whose eerie caterwaulings just happen to occasionally assemble themselves into passages from Pixies and Nirvana songs.

Edmund Welles is the brainchild of one Cornelius Boots (his given name? if so, his parents rule), who first conceived of the idea of an all-bass clarinet ensemble back in 1996, the same year Apocalyptica was giving Metallica the all-cello treatment. Boots liked heavy metal, too, but he also liked alternative rock, jazz, traditional American folk music, and even good old fashioned baroque classical music, the stuff the bass clarinet was invented to play in the first place. And he was determined to combine all his affections into a single, pulsating mass of bass clarinet awesomeness. This was such a uniquely weird concept that Boots worked on his Edmund Welles project in solitude for several years before finally assembling enough fellow bass clarinetists to begin staging public performances.

In 2004, the group released its first album, Agrippa’s 3 Books, which Boots himself has described as “Muzak for conspiracy theorists,” “inspired by occult philosophy and heavy metal music.” In addition to an original multi-part movement with titles like “Asmodeus: The Destroyer, King of the Demons,” the album also featured covers of songs by Black Sabbath, Sepultura and (no, really) Spinal Tap. They’ve since released a second album of original material called Tooth & Claw, which has cover art that would’ve made the late great Ronnie James Dio smile. Is the bass clarinet the Woodwind of the Beast? Well, now that you mention it, that’s kinda what it sounds like.

Inevitably, Edmund Welles have gotten the most attention for their covers, especially a very solemn reading of Radiohead’s “Creep.” Their original stuff is weirder and ultimately much more interesting, but we’ll give you their version of “Creep” here in the hopes that it serves as a gateway to some of the harder stuff. Sort of the way your local Philharmonic does “The Nutcracker” every Christmas in the hopes that you’ll buy season tickets and come back for some Bartok and Stravinsky.

P.S. Did we mention that Cornelius Boots has also released an album of “sound, not music” called Sabbaticus Rex, featuring “spontaneous, sustained sound structuring” with Japanese flutes, gongs and Tuvan throat singing? Well, he has. Just thought we’d throw that in there.

Links:

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 175 other followers