Feeling bombarded by fa-la-la-la-lame Christmas music? Desperate to escape the tyranny of syrupy yuletide standards oozing out of every radio, TV and shopping mall P.A. system? Christmas music doesn’t have to suck. Here’s a playlist that should inject some much-needed rock into your holidays.
10. “Father Christmas” by The Kinks
Why it rocks: the lyrics tell the tale of a shopping mall Santa mugged by young punks who demand money instead of toys, yet you somehow sympathize with the muggers. How very punk rock.
9. “Christmas in Hollis” by Run-DMC
Why it rocks: Remember at the beginning of Die Hard, when John McClane asks his limo driver to play some Christmas music, and the driver responds “This is Christmas music”? It’s Christmas in Hollis. Enough said.
8. “O Holy Night” by Weezer
Why it rocks: when alt-rock bands cover Christmas songs, they’re often tempted to go campy and ironic, so as not to lose precious indie cred. Screw that, said Weezer. They slather on their trademark wall of guitar fuzz but still deliver an earnest and strangely addictive rendition of this classic.
7. “Don’t Shoot Me Santa Claus” by The Killers
Why it rocks: after a boy enacts vengeance on his neighborhood bullies, he fears Santa is planning homicidal retribution and begs for yuletide mercy. Festive! Also, the video was directed by the actor who voiced Simon in the Alvin and the Chipmunks trilogy, which adds a dose of surreal awesomeness.
6. “Red Water (Christmas Morning)” by Type O Negative
Why it rocks: the holidays can be a depressing time, what with all the reflection, contemplation and disappointment about nose-hair trimmer under the tree instead of an iPad Mini. Misery loves company, and nobody is more miserable than the late Peter Steele and his unmerry band of goth-metal vampires in this downtuned dirge. Best lyric: “God damn ye merry gentlemen.”
5. “Santa Claws is Coming to Town” by Alice Cooper
Why it rocks: Santa Claws, not Santa Claus. See what Alice did there? Okay, so the shock-rock icon may have lost some of his shock value, but this song is still a fun, campy send-up that will inspire your mother to holler “turn that racket off,” which is its own reward.
4. “Run Rudolph Run” by Lemmy
Why it rocks: Lemmy. The Motorhead frontman is the rockingest rocker in Rocksville, and anyone who says otherwise is wrong. He could cover a Teletubbies tune and make it rock.
3. “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” by Tom Waits
Why it rocks: it doesn’t, really — not in the traditional sense. But what it lacks in oopmh it makes up for in grit, grime and one of the most unlikely narratives every told in a Christmas tune. Waits, at the height of his drunken piano minstrel schtick, spins the yarn of a downtrodden street walker pleading a former john, via Christmas card, for a little money to pay her lawyer. The tragicomic finale: “Hey, I’ll be eligible for parole come Valentine’s Day.”
2. “Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by Dio and Tony Iommi
Why it rocks: the late, great Ronnie James Dio seemed to have emerged Santa’s (or Satan’s?) workshop. He stood only three apples high and he was once in a band called Elf. Despite his diminutive frame, he had a set of pipes to rival the Mormon Tabernacle. Plus he pioneered the pinkie-and-forefinger devil horn salute — the greatest gift of all.
1. “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” by The Ramones
Why it rocks: it takes cajones for a band like The Ramones to record a song with “Christmas” in the title, but they delivered. In trademark Ramones fashion, the melody is dead-simple but infuriatingly catchy, and the borderline-moronic lyrics have a weirdly poignant resonance. “Christmas ain’t the time for breaking each other’s hearts.” Amen.
Something missing? Leave a comment and tell us which tunes we left out.