Move over Santa, Baby: Why the weird festive album is going to save Christmas

Move over Santa, Baby: Why the weird festive album is going to save Christmas
Tired of the usual yuletide schmaltz, a new generation of musicians are getting creative with Christmas standards or simply writing brand new alternative anthems. Ed Power finds everything from dungeon synth covers to a forgotten ‘Star Wars’ spin-off

クリスマス is almost here, and how better to celebrate than by bopping along to Wham! and Mariah Carey classics covered by a horned monster from central European folklore? That is the deal, 多かれ少なかれ, with Krampusnacht, the moniker of a mysterious vintage keyboard enthusiast from Greenland. Each December, he adopts the persona of the “Krampus” demon figure, known for its seasonal punishments of naughty children throughout Austria and southern Germany, and releases an EP of festive tunes.

With every release – six since 2017, on Bandcamp – he delivers burbling and baroque electronic takes on festive favourites, from “Last Christmas” to “Good King Wenceslas”. For the nameless “dungeon synth” musician, it’s a Christmas compulsion. “I’m literally possessed once a year by the Krampus demon and forced to create an album serving his purpose to bring terror and joy to those who choose to listen,” he once explained.

Krampusnacht’s unlikely reign as bringer of seasonal weirdness is a reminder that Christmas music comes in all shapes and sizes. It isn’t just the same old schmaltz you hear in John Lewis ads or knitted-sweater classics by Frank Sinatra or Perry Como. Sometimes it’s just downright strange – stranger, でも, than David Bowie duetting with Bing Crosby or the narrators in The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York” discovering the spirit of Christmas at the bottom of a well of mutual antipathy and self-loathing.

いらっしゃいませ, 言い換えると, to the fascinating and peculiar world of the Misfit Christmas Album. This bonkers genre spans decades and weaves into the yuletide tapestry such unlikely subjects as science fiction, the horror writings of HP Lovecraft and pagan folklore.

You could fill a lifetime’s supply of stockings with examples of the milieu. あります Mr Hankey’s Christmas Classics から 1999, in which the singing poo from サウスパーク performed songs such as “Merry F***ing Christmas” and “What the Hell Child Is This”. Nor can we forget 2018’s Shatner Claus, どこ スタートレック’s former Captain Kirk, ウィリアム・シャトナー, wraps his tonsils around “Little Drummer Boy” and “Run Rudolph Run” (“oh no, いいえ, no” goes a review on Amazon).

These alt-Christmas oddities allow for a broader expression of the festive season. “People want to hear from all sides [about Christmas],” says Chad Fifer of goth-punk band Pitch Black Manor. The group have just put out an abrasive glam metal Christmas double a-side called “All Bagged Up/ The Wendigo” (sample lyrics: “Have you been naughty? Have you been nice? Have you been sleeping on thin ice?」).

One of Pitch Black Manor’s inspirations was The Kinks and their 1977 single “Father Christmas”, in which the narrator threatens grievous bodily harm upon a department store Santa Claus. “Father Christmas, give us some money / We’ll beat you up if you make us annoyed,” goes the jaunty chorus. “The character in the song wants a machine gun for Christmas to protect himself from bullies,” says Fifer. “There’s room for every reaction to this time of year.”

Christmas records have seen a huge increase in popularity since the arrival of streaming. Spotify’s Christmas Hits playlist, which opens with Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and concludes, six hours later, with Dolly Parton and Michael Bublé crooning “Cuddle Up , Cozy Down Christmas”, 持っている 4.5 百万人のフォロワー. その間, more and more artists are seeking to join the festive goldrush. Gary Barlow and Norah Jones are among those putting out seasonal music in 2021, following Goo Goo Dolls, Delta Goodrem, Jamie Cullum and Tori Amos last year, and Robbie Williams and Rod Stewart in 2019.

But sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the wall-to-wall jolliness. Which is where the Misfit Christmas LP comes in.

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“Holiday songs have simply been played to death,” says Sean Branney, producer of the 2003 コレクション A Very Scary Solstice, featuring musically inclined members of the HP Lovecraft Literary Society. Described as a merging of “the wonderful tradition of merry holiday carolling with the cosmic horror of the Cthulhu Mythos”, the album brings a gothic horror touch to December with songs such as “Do You Fear What I Fear?” and “Away in a Madhouse”. 今年, there’s an added treat for devotees of eldritch horror, with the society planning a dark and stormy version of “Little Drummer Boy”.

“Most [クリスマスソング] have become musical cliches that have been run into the ground through decades of overexposure,” says Branney of the Society’s playful covers of Christmas classics – where the traditional lyrics are given a Lovecraftian makeover (“Have yourself a Scary Little Christmas”) . “In swapping out the lyrics for something that’s both surprising and funny, the songs come back to life.”

頻繁, these alternative songs offer a skewed take on Christmas that serves as a beacon to those for whom this time of year is something other than a joyful season. Mainstream records can do this, too – “Last Christmas” is, 結局, one of the most devastatingly sad pop songs ever. Yet in general, Christmas music encountered on the radio or on playlists tends to be upbeat. The Misfit Christmas Album allows the listener to experience a range of feelings, whether that be anger, sadness or merely howling indifference.

“Christmas has evolved into a holiday that is often saccharine in its sentiments and ruthless marketing,” says Branney. “But for many, the holiday season is a dark time where seasonal joy can be hard to find. There are those for whom family time is not a cause for joy or for whom holiday spending is a burden not a pleasure.”

That isn’t to say that the Misfit Christmas Album always comes from a place of melancholy, mischief or anarchy. に 1996, the Portland-based ambient label Projekt released Excelsis 1 (A Dark Noel), a “spacey and ethereal” compilation that featured cosmic interpretations of “O Holy Night”, “O Come All Ye Faithful” and other standards. A remastered edition has just been reissued.

“Back when the Excelsis… record came out, most Christmas records were Bing Crosby and Sinatra,” says Projekt founder Sam Rosenthal. “Nothing inherently wrong with that but it was sort of tired. The more modern things seemed to be joke versions [お気に入り] A Punk Rock Christmas where someone screamed ‘jingle bells’ once or twice in a mocking fashion. We thought there was a place for an ethereal reimagining of Christmas songs.”

ザ・ 1980 festive masterpiece ‘Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album’

A similar sincerity motivated producer Meco Monardo when, に 1978, he contacted スターウォーズ creator George Lucas, suggesting the Jedi franchise was ripe for a Christmas spin-off (Monardo had already produced the disco collection Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk に 1977). And that earnestness carried through to the LP that he made with Lucas’s blessing: 1980の Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album.

「私は言った [to Lucas], ‘You have some characters who are so much like all the Christmas characters that we all love,’” said Monardo in 2005. “I went into great detail, eventually saying, ‘I think we should do a Christmas album together.’”

Lucas was at Elstree Studios in London at the time, 作る 帝国の逆襲. He must have been impressed with the pitch because he took time out to call Monardo. He then dispatched C-3PO himself, Anthony Daniels, to New York to provide vocals.

The tracks were stranger than a stormtrooper in a tutu. Songs included “What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)」, in which a robot narrator frets what presents to buy for Chewbacca. There is also a number called “R2-D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas”, which features a lead vocal from a 17-year-old aspiring rocker named Jon Bongiovi, the nephew of the project’s producer Tony Bongiovi. He would later change the spelling of his name to Jon Bon Jovi.

“He had this cute little voice,” Monardo said of Bongiovi’s contribution. “He was still a kid, and his voice really hadn’t even come down in pitch yet.”

With its mix of Chipmunk-like “robots” and lyrics such as “everyone will have a cookie, I bought extra for the Wookiee”, Christmas in the Stars is enough to induce temporary insanity in the modern-day listener. それにもかかわらず, it proved a major hit for Monardo, shifting 150,000 copies.

ザ・ 2013 EP ‘A Heavy Metal Christmas Too’ by Christopher Lee

But anything Star Wars can do, the Lord of the Rings can top. または少なくとも, the Evil Wizard Saruman, in the form of his alter ego, Christopher Lee. In addition to being a life-long Tolkien devotee, Lee was a huge heavy metal fan, との間 2012 そして 2014 he released several collections of Christmas-themed metal, A Heavy Metal Christmas, A Heavy Metal Christmas Too そして Darkest Carols, Faithful Sing. Among the classics tackled by Lee are “Little Drummer Boy” and “Silent Night”.

“I have a great belief that things – no matter what they are: 音楽, 文学, anything in life – should from time to time surprise people,” Lee said in an interview promoting Darkest Carols, Faithful Sing. “And that’s what I believe in: surprising people.”

彼は正しいです. Surprises always make life more interesting. And amid the annual deluge of aural treacle, the Misfit Christmas Album fulfils precisely that purpose. It reminds us there is an alternative to the storybook Christmas. That the bleak midwinter can be a time of absurdity and silliness – of wookiee cookies, Christopher Lee howling like a banshee and the Krampus playing gothic keyboard solos. 言い換えると, the Misfit Christmas Album reminds us it’s perfectly fine to not fit in, and to mark December in whatever fashion we see fit.

Krampusnacht’s ‘Krampusferatu’ is out now via Bandcamp