Monday, December 1, 2014

10 Christmas Songs You Might Not Know

December is upon us, which means that it's now officially okay to listen to Christmas music. In fact, you're pretty much obliged to listen to Christmas music, so if you're not a big fan of Wizzard and Nat King Cole and Cliff fucking Richard, you may want to find something else with which to occupy your ears this December.

And that's where today's blog comes in. If you're bored of the same old Slade - because, let's face it, all Christmas CDs have basically the same tracklist - here are 10 lesser-known Yuletide classics that you might not have come across before. I've certainly never spotted any of these on a seasonal compilation, anyway.

1. A Christmas Duel - The Hives and Cyndi Lauper
A rollicking and gleefully hateful cheating song - and then some! Frankly, I'm not sure why Cyndi and The Hives haven't worked together since. I'd gladly listen to a whole album of this stuff.

2. A Christmas Carol - Tom Lehrer
Tom Lehrer ought to be everybody's songwriting hero. This is a characteristically sardonic take on the most wonderful profitable time of the year, recorded in an era when it wasn't yet clichéd to be cynical at Christmas (more on that later).

3. Snoopy's Christmas - The Royal Guardsmen
I'm a big Peanuts fan, so any song with Snoopy in it is bound to be a hit in my book. This song is very clever indeed, using Snoopy's long-running feud with The Red Baron to tell the tale of the 1914 Christmas Truce. I'd take this over that Sainsbury's advert any day.

4. Everything is One Big Christmas Tree - The Magnetic Fields
Stephin Merritt has tackled pretty much every other genre in existence, so it should come as no surprise that The Mags have a couple of Christmas songs hidden among their sprawling back catalogue. I personally prefer this comparatively jolly cut to the rather miserable Mr Mistletoe, but others may disagree.

5. It's Clichéd to be Cynical at Christmas - Half Man Half Biscuit
Somewhere down the line, we all became Tom Lehrer (see above), and it took Nigel Blackwell and Co. to show us the error of our ways and smile again. Play this song to anyone who tells you they hate Christmas, and it might just change their mind.

6. Christmas in Prison - John Prine
One of the saddest, most sombre Christmas songs I know (although Lonely This Christmas by Mud is a close runner-up). I love how plain and hopeless John Prine sounds in his delivery of that final line: "It's Christmas in prison, there'll be music tonight, and I'll probably get homesick. I love you. Goodnight."

7. Tojo - Hoodoo Gurus
How about a vintage slice of Australian indie rock to liven up your Christmas mix? That opening riff should be recognised alongside the synth sounds in Paul McCartney's Wonderful Christmastime as the most instantly exciting festive intros ever.

8. Christmas Griping - R.E.M.
Even if, like me, you've got all the R.E.M. albums, there's still a good choice you've never heard this before. It was one of the band's annual Christmas presents to the fanclub, and it is completely bizarre in ways that even R.E.M.'s most experimental album tracks never even hinted at.

9. Oi to the World! - The Vandals
It's Christmas, football hooligan style. No Doubt covered this, but the original is better because words like 'Oi!' don't sound quite right in the mouths of Americans like Gwen Stefani.

10. (This Christmas) Bury Me in Hawaii - The Brute Chorus
Okay, I take back what I said about Christmas in Prison - this is the saddest Christmas song I know. It's all about hanging yourself and asking to be buried somewhere warm, somewhere far away from the cold winter that everyone else is celebrating. Merry Christmas!

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