I’ve only just emerged from the trenches. Besides this gig, I work in retail, making December very much a killing ground. But I love it, though the downside is that it makes working on articles tricky. Which is why this has taken far longer to put out than I would’ve liked.
However I still wanted to throw all of you some early presents. A list of alternative holiday songs to mix up your playlists:
1. Flerb’s Robo Quartet – Diddley Squat
You know me. I scout across the fringes, looking for things I find cool and interesting and then reporting back to you asap. During my time I’ve found plenty I rate, a lot I adore and – let’s be fair – some outright drek. But I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anything which chilled me to the bone as much as this.
Flerb’s Robo Quartet’s cover of comedian Heywood Bank’s “You Ain’t Gettin’ Diddly Squat” is some uncanny valley shit. Bank’s original is an amusing, if fairly standard, 90s Christmas lark. The quartet’s auto-tuned harmonies make it pretty freaky however. I can feel the wires snaking into my brain as they inform me that ‘There’s a truck for little Billy and a dolly for Molly, dear/But you ain’t gettin’ diddly squat ’cause you really messed up this year!’
But goodwill to all isn’t necessarily the point here. We’re swerving away from the usual holiday fare; and it’d be difficult to find a bigger swerve than this.
2. H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society – A Very Scary Solstice
I put out a call on Twitter for recommendations. I’d already found alternative Christmas music I wanted to share, but I wanted a deeper pool to draw from. I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who chipped in. You didn’t disappoint.
Quite a few people pointed me towards A Very Scary Solstice. In 2003, The H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society decided to release their own interpretations of Christmas classics – all refracted through the lens of the Cthulhu Mythos.
The result was joyous titles such as “Silent Night, Blasphemous Night,” “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Fishmean” and my personal favourite; “I Saw Mommy Kissing Yog-Sothoth.”
3. Curxes – I Believe in Father Christmas
I should make it clear that I legitimately love Christmas music. I get why people may want to tear their ears off upon hearing the opening bars of Shakin’ Stevens’ “Merry Christmas Everyone.” But personally I can’t get enough.
There are two Christmas standards which I rate beyond all others. The obvious one being The Pogues and Kirsty McColl’s “Fairytale of New York” – a beautiful work which isn’t just one of the best Christmas songs; but one of the best songs of all time, period.
The other comes from Greg Lake. “I Believe In Father Christmas” doesn’t seem to get as much acknowledgement, despite its regular prescence on every holiday rotation. It’s an original take on innocent wonder, and how that clashes with the commodification of the season.
This year synth-pop producer Curxes put out her own version of it. It’s a little shorter, and it doesn’t really change things up too much. But I still really rate it as a satisfying curiosity in its own right.
4. Girls Rituals – All I Want For Christmas Is You
So Flerb’s Robo Quartet is pretty terrifying, but if you’re looking for something to dance* to, then Girls Rituals have you covered.
Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is up-beat and a genuine seasonal treat. It also remains the best selling modern Christmas song of all time; so what better way to honour its legacy than by adding a severe beat and glitching the fuck, out of it?
Nothing is sacred. Nor should anything be. Of the many acts I’ve discovered this year, Girls Rituals are without a doubt one of the best – technically and thematically. What I really love about this cover is how it recontextualises things. The heartfelt longing of the original is exchanged for something desperate and almost feral.
*translation: maniacally scream and trash the room to.
5. Whatever Dude – A Very Vaporwave Christmas
The YouTube description for A Very Vapourware Christmas describes it as ‘A slightly rushed album, but so are all Christmas albums.’ Which makes it appropriate for a list written by someone being propelled through exhaustion by chemical stimulants.
I’m pretty ambivalent about this genre now. It’s produced many works of genius, but personally most recent releases have become too generic and derivative for my taste. Which is an ironic thing to say. Or something.
A Very Vaporwave Christmas did just enough to win me over. It plays with the classics (notably Wham!’s “Last Christmas” and, er, Eazy E’s “Merry Muthaphuckkin’ Xmas”) in interesting ways. It also does a great job of toying with wholesome characteristics of the season (the Coca Cola logo, a track called “Black Friday”).
This is something to put on while you’re cooking. Or perhaps after having gorged on your store-bought turkey and corporate branded “home cooked” pudding.
6. David DeBoy – Crabs for Christmas
This was another recommendation; coming courtesy of Denise Kitashima Dutton – a great movie critic with a big brain, warm heart and a high-functioning quality of derangement.
Her suggestion is suitably bizarre. “Crabs for Christmas” is a precious gem, cut from 80s Maryland public access television. Now let’s be serious: this song has to be about pubic lice. Or does is it?
Apparently not, but that’s where everyone’s mind will go. In truth this song actually reps for the home state of writer and actor David DeBoy. And its premise is actually tragic, as an article referencing The Baltimore Sun explains:
For three decades, David DeBoy has been singing his sad tale of an expatriate Baltimorean stuck in Houston on Christmas Eve, sadly lamenting to Santa that the only present he really wants is a big bucket of steamed crustaceans. That’s a sentiment any local resident should be able to appreciate, and it’s made the singer-songwriter responsible for “Crabs for Christmas” something of a hometown hero.
Crabs are a big deal in Maryland. There’s a lot of in-jokes here, a lot of references specific to the region. But I’m still confident about passing along Denise’s gift.
Hey kitty-cats – I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who’s supported Pastel Wasteland over the past year. From Rob, myself and everyone involved: have a very Merry Christmas.