Tis the season to have your brain battered into submission by an endless parade of maudlin and schmaltzy Christmas carols.
Between now and December 25, it will be impossible to avoid the deluge of decking the halls and white Christmas dreaming that inevitably takes over every and all musical outlets imaginable.
Hope, however, is on the horizon. In the spirit of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” we’ve compiled this virtual mix of Christmas favorites as interpreted by some of our favorite rock artists.
Just throw these snow-covered tracks together on a playlist or mix CD, and quietly replace that old Pat Boone Christmas album with some new holiday musical traditions that have a little more (spiked) punch to them. Since nothing says “Happy Holidays!” quite like a menacing Henry Rollins or Scott Weiland on a reggae bender.
Fun., “Sleigh Ride – This alternative pop power trio with a slew of GRAMMY nominations apply their Queen-Meets-Elton-John dramatics to this Christmas classic, adding a jaunty hip-hop beat and warm strings. Even grandma will get a kick out of this upbeat and seasonal take on a holiday favorite found on new Starbucks compilation, Holidays Rule.
Henry Rollins, “Twas the Night Before Christmas” – The hardcore punk icon’s dark and menacing version of this traditional tune rides on a rumbling bass line and the sound of police helicopters overhead as Rollins growls his way through the lyrics. Found on the long out of print 1991 A Lump of Coal compilation, it would be the perfect soundtrack if The Walking Dead ever did a Christmas special.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Deck The Halls” – Included on their 1994 rarities and B-side compilation, Out in L.A., Anthony Keidis and the gang deliver a wobbly but fun a capella rendition of “Deck The Halls” in funny voices. Flea shouts out the Motor City at the end of the take, signing off with “good night, Detroit.”
Coldplay – “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” – Found on the 2002 collection Maybe This Christmas, Chris Martin is only accompanied by a piano on this genuine and sentimental reading of the song first recorded by Judy Garland in 1944. Another one even the grandparents will enjoy.
The White Stripes – “Silent Night” – Jack and Meg White released an increasingly rare vinyl 45 for Christmas 2002, with this number tucked away on the B-side after Jack reads a passage from the Bible. Hear Jack coach Meg through the lyrics, with the pair arguing over a certain line (Meg was right). It’s a sweet, lo-fi recording with audible background noise that sounds like an AM radio.
Weezer – “O Come All Ye Faithful” – Originally recorded for an iPhone video game, Rivers Cuomo and the crew wisely released Christmas with Weezer as a 6-song EP in 2008. Faithfully playing the carols in the fuzzed-out and guitar-driven style of classic ‘90s Weezer, this holiday track sparkles with the band’s infectious alt-rock energy.
Radiohead – “Winter Wonderland” – Thom Yorke and the guys turned out an experimental webcast back in 2002 that was a mixture of DJ sets and live performances from the band. During the webcast, they ran through a rather faithful albeit loose rendition of this Christmas favorite complete with sleigh bells, although Yorke sounds especially, um, relaxed.
Julian Casablancas – “I Wish It Was Christmas Today” – Leave it to the wacky writers of Saturday Night Live to pen a funny Christmas carol that’s turned into something of a modern standard. Originally performed by former SNL cast members Horatio Sanz, Andy Samberg, Chris Kattan and Tracy Morgan, the lead singer of the Strokes recorded a hard rocking take of it for the deluxe version of his solo debut, Phrazes for the Young, as well as a vinyl single and MP3 download.
Far (Featuring Chino Moreno) –“Feed The World (Do They Know It’s Christmas)” – this relatively obscure band out of Sacramento teamed up with the Deftones‘ frontman to record a new version of the massive 1984 holiday hit for 2003 AIDS charity compilation, A Santa Clause: It’s a Punk Rock Christmas. Moreno’s unmistakable voice (subtly imitating the original singers) rides over a galloping beat of distorted guitars.
Scott Weiland – “O Holy Night” – Calling Stone Temple Pilots and former Velvet Revolver frontman Scott Weiland’s 2011 Christmas album Most Wonderful Time of the Year unexpected would be something of an understatement. He takes a more traditional approach to classic holiday tunes such as the title track, but takes some big liberties with “O Holy Night,” crooning the song over a loping reggae beat, complete with steel drums.
–Scott T. Sterling, CBS Local