Ten Christmas Songs That Don’t Grate

Sick of 'Jingle Bells'? Try these semi-obscure jams.

Photo by Zack W

Photo by Zack W

There’s a guy, Christopher Golub, whose job is to program all the music for every Chipotle in America. That’s his gig. He mixtapes a new list of about 500 songs every month, and that’s what you’ll hear while you’re waiting for the one jerk in front of you ordering for the whole office to collect his 30 burritos.

I am going to launch a competing service, run it only during the holidays, and charge every mall worker in America for the mix, plus instructions on how to sneak it into their store’s PA system. I am going to make Scrooge McDuck money, and I’m going to pretend I never knew any of you. I will insist everything I eat first be wrapped in gold leaf—even on 4 a.m. Roberto’s runs. I will have chauffeur service for my dogs. Also, I will need to buy dogs.

In the meantime, though, I’m going to do you all a solid. I’m going to give you a Christmas playlist for 2013 full of semi-obscure jams, so you won’t have to buy that John Travolta-Olivia Newton John holiday album and pretend like that’s OK because you used to do “Summer Nights” at karaoke. It’s not OK. Stop it.

“Pastramikah” by The Objex. This celebratory ode to P Moss’ annual salted-meat holiday extravaganza turned up on the legendary Merry X-mas Dammit From the Double Down Saloon compilation in 2007. It’s not, technically, a Christmas song (although we suppose you could make some sort of non-canonical argument for Santa enjoying deli cuts), but it does sum up the spirit of the holiday season. This time of year is about giving. Giving brined beef, sure. But giving, nonetheless.

“I Wanna Spend Christmas With Elvis” by Marlene Paul. You could get away with this kind of thing in 1956. If you tried to record a stalkery novelty song now, you’d either get accused of far-too-obvious ironic mockery, or else the NSA would tap your phone to try to head off a Selena incident. But the screaming, earnest love letter to the King brings a metric ton of holiday cheer if you’re the kind of person who ever cut a celebrity’s face out of a magazine, taped it to a life-size doll and practiced your make-out moves. Not, uh, that I’d relate to that or anything.

“Dead Christmas” by Monster Magnet. Fun fact: Monster Magnet taped the video for their biggest jam, 1998’s “Space Lord,” outside the Plaza. Even more fun fact for the purposes of this column: Three years earlier they recorded this smoky, steady murder-at-Christmas jam (or possibly break up-at-Christmas jam—Dave Wyndorf’s lyrics are borderline inscrutable). It’s essentially the polar opposite of “I Wanna Spend Christmas With Elvis.”

“David Christmas” by Fucked Up. The Canadian hardcore punk outfit may have won the “Best Vegas Show Attended by Tragically Few People” award for 2013 when they did everything shy of set Triple B on fire on October 16. Even more impressive, they can rock the hell out of the holidays with this ancillary cut to the 2011 rock opera David Comes to Life.

“Call It Christmas” by The Supersuckers. Eddie Spaghetti and the Supersuckers are good for at least two Vegas shows a year, and sadly, I’ve never heard them do this number from an otherwise uninspiring Redeye 2008 Holiday Sampler. Too bad, because it’s the ’Suckers in full-on Greatest Rock ’n’ Roll Band in the World mode, cut through with Spaghetti’s trademark sardonicism unleashed on the Great December Present Stampede. Call it your new Black Friday anthem.

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by The Legendary Shack*Shakers. Staying on the rockabilly-adjacent tip for a moment, this might be the hands-down best version of “God Rest” I’ve ever heard. A shambling, lurching, drunken stumble through this classic sounds like something Tom Waits would have done if he tamped down his deliberately obscurantist instincts for half a second.

“Christmas at Ground Zero” by “Weird” Al Yankovic. OK, so this isn’t the most arcane track on the list, but it’s impossible to leave off if we want to Vegasify our playlists as much as possible. It’s too perfect a fit given our atomic past, it’s got a legitimately awesome sax hook, and if you can’t dance around to lyrics like We can dodge debris while we trim the tree underneath a mushroom cloud, then there’s no hope for you as a sentient human being with any kind of capacity for joy. Happy holidays, you monster.

“Stanley” by Jimenem. Fine, a parody of the overwrought Eminem track “Stan” is 12 years too late at this point, but this Jimmy Kimmel joint was timely when it came out on the KROQ sampler Kevin & Bean’s The Real Slim Santa in 2000. More important, it still plays as completely hilarious to anyone who was dodging Dido vocals on every radio dial back in the day.

“Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa” by De La Soul. This might be De La producer Prince Paul’s masterpiece (though I might be just saying that because of my crippling Christmas music addiction). The track has more hooks than a pirate hospital while it tells the oh-so-uplifting tale of a girl, molested by her father, who shoots him down in the middle of his shift as a department-store Santa.

“Shake Hands With Santa Claus” by Louis Prima. Prima only recorded a handful of Christmas songs, tragically. If you could wrangle the giddy exuberance of the season into a dapper suit and stick it in front of a seven-piece band, you’d get Louis Prima. First-ballot Hall of Famer among people you’d want to invite to your Christmas party, and this song shows you why.

Complete your Christmas playlist with Scavone’s 2012 picks.

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