Sick already of decking the halls? Heck, let’s wreck the halls. There are “twisted” Christmas songs, but alt rockers also have their own take on skewing holiday season music. From the sublime to the ridiculous, here are 10 punk, indie and plain weirdo ways to get your Xmas guitar mojo on.
In no particular order, let’s begin with…
The Walkmen “Christmas Party”
The soundtrack to that 3am moment when you realize you’ve hit the eggnog a little too hard and gone too far with Christmas “celebrations.” The Walkmen can craft deft weaving guitar melodies when riffing with serious intention, but even the sleigh bells sound drunk on this.
The Ramones “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)
Classic three-chord Ramones – although is that a minor chord thrown in? “I love you and you love me / And that's the way it's got to be,” drawls the late Joey Ramone. It’s actually quite a lovin’ festive song, in its own way.
Blink-182 “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas”
“It's Christmas time again / It's time to be nice to the people you can't stand all year / I'm growing tired of all this Christmas cheer.” Straight-ahead punk chordage married to the dread of extended-family get-togethers... Face it, we’ve all been there.
Manic Street Preachers “The Ghost Of Christmas”
The Welsh firebrands are clearly remembering their own 1970s childhood Christmases here. “Hot Wheels on the dinner table / Too much sherry, with mum unstable / She's acting like Evil Knievel / Oh yes, I am blessed.” Decent tune, added bells, and a roaring Gibson Les Paul solo from James Dean Bradfield. Given as a gift to fans as a download in 2007. In a statement, the Manics said: “The song is old school Christmas, the anti X Factor, for us it's actual fun.”
Sufjan Stevens “Joy To The World”
Do you fancy more sincere Christmas celebration with a nu-folk twist? Stevens’ acoustic rendition of the classic tune is pretty indeed, with interweaving guitars and delicate vocal melodies. No “irony” here, just a classic festive song done alt-folk style, with requisite sleigh bells at the end. Sweet stuff. Unlike The Vandals’ silly punk of “Oi! To The World.”
The Killers “A Great Big Sled”
Like R.E.M, The Killers do a yearly Christmas song. Madly, they’re often really good songs. “This snowman is shaping up to be an 8 / but not out of 10” is the opening line. Which is a smart/funny lyric. Bells a-ring, chords shift, and it’s a slamdunk for anthemic indie Christmas cheer.
My Chemical Romance “All I Want For Christmas Is You”
Tired of Mariah Carey wailing in every mall, every day, every December? Add hard riffing, double bass drums, strutting guitar breakdowns, screeching, and here’s the antidote. Hardly high art, but this is how to tackle an indelible melody with emo attitude.
Jimmy Eat World “Last Christmas”
Is everyone a closet Wham! fan? Jimmy Eat World certainly “came out” on this. The melody is faithful but Jimmy Eat World weave some nice guitars into a classic Christmas song. Soft, but nice and warming. Jimmy Eat World’s “Christmas Card” is another matter.
R.E.M “Christmas Griping”
R.E.M recorded Christmas songs for the fanclub members yearly. They did a perfunctory “Deck the Halls”, but “Christmas Griping” (1991) is quite surreal. A fuzz riff of “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer” is about the only thing that makes sense. “Wouldn’t you like to throttle the person who invented fruit cake” goes one of Michael Stipe’s lines. “I’m still having nightmares about Burl Ives,” goes another. Weird stuff. Don’t play this to children on Christmas Eve - you’ll scare them.
The Killers “Don’t Shoot Me Santa”
No apologies for a second Killers Christmas cracker, as they record one every year. Of 2012’s new one, “I Feel It in My Bones,” Brandon Flowers says. “This will be the seventh one, and as long as we’re going, there will always be a Killers Christmas song.”
But our pick off the tree is The Killers’ sublime effort from 2007. “Don’t Shoot Me Santa” stars a gun-wielding evil Santa with Brandon Flowers tied to a chair with tinsel and ready for burial, Mariachi trumpets, puppets and a mini-road movie in the hot desert. Guess Christmas is kinda different in Nevada?