With the holiday season in full swing and the arrival of Santa Claus imminent, the deluge of Christmas music has hit critical mass. There’s just no avoiding it at this point, so trying to resist is futile.
To quote the inimitable Rage Against the Machine, it’s time to take the power back. Fight against the endless spins of Mariah Carey and Wham! holiday retreads with these twelve all-original Christmas songs that not only don’t suck, but rock out with a vengeance.
Written and performed by some of your favorite bands, these twelve tunes (especially when combined with our Top 10 Rock Christmas Covers You’ll Actually Like) will give you and yours plenty of musical reasons to celebrate the season in sonic styles.
1. Smashing Pumpkins – “Christmastime” – Originally found on the 1997 compilation A Very Special Christmas 3, Billy Corgan crafted this dreamy, sincere ode to Christmas from a kid’s perspective is so rich with holiday spirit you can almost hear snow falling in the background. Now this is Christmas.
2. The Waitresses – “Christmas Wrapping” – This oldie but eternal goodie comes from the quirky early ‘80s new wave outfit out of Ohio best known for the single “I Know What Boys Like.” It’s a fun, feel-good tune that will get even the most jaded hipster on the Christmas party dance floor.
3. Blink-182 – “Happy Holidays, You Bastard” – Leave it to the bad boys of Blink-182 to kick Christmas square in the ass with a hyperactive and profane pop-punk romp that is the very definition of NSFW. In short, it’s awesome.
4. The Vandals – “Oi to the World” – Originally recorded for the SoCal punk band’s 1996 Christmas album of the same name, this upbeat ska track for the holidays found fame when it was covered by their buddies No Doubt for the 1997 A Very Special Christmas 3 release.
5. The White Stripes – “Candy Cane Children” – Jack and Meg White crafted this lo-fi gem way back in 1998 for the rare Surprise Package Volume 2 compilation, re-releasing as a special holiday 45 single in 2002. The song would go on to define the band’s fans as “candy cane children.”
6. Beck – “The Little Drum Machine Boy” – This groovy electro jam that kicked off the 1997 Just Say Noel holiday compilation is some straight-up “Hanukkah robot funk,” according to the song’s lyrics. It even features a Hebrew prayer in the chorus.
7. Corey Taylor – “XM@$” – The Slipknot/Stone Sour singer recorded this hilarious anti-Christmas ditty “for a laugh,” releasing it to support the Teenage Cancer Trust in 2010 after friends told him how much they liked it. “I wrote this song in my kitchen one winter, listening to people bitch about the holidays,” he told Oblioo.com. “Personally, I love the holidays, but they seem to bring on severe stress in most people. So, I wrote this in honor of crotchety, drunken bastards who don’t know the difference between a yuletide and a toolshed.”
8. The Ramones – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” – The New York punk pioneers first released this gem as the B-side to 1987 single “I Wanna Live,” and it serves as the last song on their 1989 album, Brain Drain. Leaning on the ‘60s side of the band’s sensibilities and Joey Ramone’s impassioned vocals, it’s a hardcore Christmas classic.
9. Pearl Jam – “Let Me Sleep (It’s Christmas Time)” – Originally released as the first fan-club-only Christmas single issued through the band’s Ten Club way back in 1991, this moody and heartfelt acoustic number is more readily available on Pearl Jam’s 2003 B-sides and rarities compilation, Lost Dogs.
10. Rancid – “Xmas Eve (She Got Up And Left Me)” – This down and dirty NorCal punk rock ditty was originally released on Kevin & Bean’s awesome 2002 charity Christmas album, Fo’ Shizzle St. Nizzle. True to Rancid tradition, catchy guitar riffs and broken hearts are involved.
11. Third Eye Blind – “One of Those Christmas Days” – The ‘90s alt-rock hit-makers got crazy in the double entendre department on this rollicking and irreverent Christmas jam that’s found on 1997 release Best of Kevin & Bean: A Family Christmas In Your Ass from the long line of holiday charity compilations from the KROQ morning jocks.
12. Gorillaz – “Don Quioxte’s Christmas Bonanza” – This moody instrumental from Blur frontman Damon Albarn and his cartoon crew the Gorillaz is another Kevin & Bean exclusive, showing up on the KROQ jock’s 2001 charity Christmas compilation, Swallow My Eggnog. The dark, dub reggae cut doesn’t exactly scream Christmas, but it’s a cool relief from all of the jingling bells and sounds great on a holiday playlist.
-Scott T. Sterling, CBS Local