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Not a lot of people know this, but as well as being an accomplished singer of showtunes and a country & western star, John C. Reilly makes a working man’s living as a comedic actor. Will Ferrell is also adept at saying ridiculous things with a straight face.

On a completely unrelated matter, here’s a video of David Bowie dropping into Bing Crosby’s house at The Most Wonderful Time of the Year for a spot of singing/jousting to the tune of ‘Peace on Earth’ and ‘Little Drummer Boy.’ Make sure to click through for a free download of the track.

12 Days of Christmas: #1 - White Christmas / #2 – Popical Island / #3 – Last Christmas / #4 – Christmas in Harlem / #5 – All I Want For Christmas is You / #6 – Fuck Christmas / #7 – Merry Xmas Everybody#8 – Ferrell & Reilly / #9 – Shit Christmas Without You / #10 / #11 / #12

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You could say I had an interesting Saturday night. I’d say it was one for the ages.

warning: what you are about to read does get a little graphic.

So I was visiting a friend in Hamilton, a shit-smelly city situated about 45 minutes Southwest of Toronto. The night started out pretty dull, actually, consisting of us sitting around watching Saved by the Bell episodes, sometimes with the commentary on, and eating soggy homemade ravioli. I don’t think we could ever imagine how the night would end just a few hours later.

After briefly deliberating, then wisely declining the prospect of going to a cougar bar, we wandered around downtown Hamilton for a few minutes. On our way, I met a homeless man who was really interested in Winter Solstice conspiracy theories and loved yelling at taxi cabs parked in crosswalks. Eventually, one of my friends pointed out a nearby bar, “Doors” I think it was called. He said the bartender was named Tyler, to which I vaguely remember saying, “hey, that’s my name”.

Cool story bro, right?

Then he goes on to tell me that the bar is known for having some weird goings-on. That and it’s often blasting Scandinavian metal. Against my better judgement, I started running. I never run. I wish I hadn’t. Walking inside, I didn’t hear Scandinavian metal. No, instead I saw a guy and girl duo on the turntables and MPC, a scruffy tall white guy rapping and someone dancing…

OK, I guess yesterday confirmed that people don’t take too kindly to hardcore punk and f-worded sentiments in their Christmas cheer. Their loss.

Today, we continue on a Christmas classic buzz, albeit a much more mainstream one.

One of the great ironies of Christmas music, in the pre-internet era at least, is that the songs tended to be written and recorded in the summer, such was the lead time required to prep for a December release. English glam rockers Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ – often incorrectly titled ‘Here it is Merry Christmas’ – is no exception, having been recorded at the tail end of the band’s 1973 summer tour of the US in a sweltering New York City in August.

The upbeat lyrical content – summed up by the line “look to the future now, it’s only just begun” – can be interpreted as more than just standard holiday season escapism. The song came about against a background of unrest in Britain’s mining and industrial heartlands and the lyrics reflected the need for a good dose of optimism. This explains why ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ is considered more than just a Christmas song in the UK. And if I can wear my Nick Butler hat for a moment, I’ll add that it was the UK’s Christmas #1 in ‘73.

Slade’s recording of the song is light and bouncy with a hint of abrasion in Noddy Holder’s gravelly vocals. By contrast, the 2000 cover by Noel Gallagher of…

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Users that are younger and more American than me might not really get this, but for somebody who didn’t get an internet connection until they were 16 and immediately set about using forums populated almost entirely by people over 3,000 miles away from them, the culture shock was surreal. I remember going into college and discussing all the crazy things we’d found out about the world at large from using forums the night before; learning that Americans think Blur are a one-hit wonder, for instance, was little short of mindblowing. The one discovery that stuck with me more than any other, though, was that no other country in the world cared about their Christmas #1.

It never occurred to me how silly this is until I had to explain it to a bewildered Canadian, but silly or not it’s true – the Christmas number 1 single is an absolutely huge deal in the UK. Getting it is a badge of honour for the bands that did, to the point where it even gets occasionally mentioned among the other major achievements of The Beatles (in ‘63, ‘64, ‘65, and ‘67) and Pink Floyd (1979 with “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2″), and has become the most commonly accepted barometer of the popularity of the Spice Girls. For some, their solitary Christmas #1 is enough to keep them famous among the general public for years to come – you’d be surprised how many parents in the UK started reminiscing about…

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Backlash is such a strong word, and perhaps not the most appropriate one given the level of antipathy the group evokes among the internet cognoscenti, but it’s impossible to avoid the term in reacting to the Lonely Island’s new single ‘I Just Had Sex,’ which features imaginary tough guy Akon.

As an unabashed fan of the Lonely Island’s first CD, 2009’s Incredibad, I’ve always found it difficult to reconcile my love of their music with my complete disdain for SaturdayNight Live, and in particular Andy Samberg’s turgid contribution as a sketch actor. Like most of the SNL cast, Samberg as an actor represents the banal strand of comedy that dictates saying something in a funny accent automatically makes it ha-ha funny, when in fact all it does is make him look like a douchebag.

It’s a similar concept that has prolonged the painful career of Kenan Thompson. Thompson, who most famously played the part of the unfunny half of Kenan & Kel, seems to most rational observers to serve one purpose on the show: to play black characters in sketches where it would be racist for the white members to wear blackface. That’s not to say that SNL producers are racist. In fact, it’s the opposite – they hold black comedians to the same low standards to which they hold themselves. It’s equal opportunity mediocrity, and it’s rampant on SNL.

Which brings us back to the Lonely Island.

Over the past three or four years, the Lonely Island…

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One often wonders that were Cee Lo Green to compose a Christmas track, would it sound anything like ‘Fuck Christmas.’

The short answer is no – for one thing, he’d probably release 11 censored versions before finally sticking the original out of sight mind at the arse-end of his Christmas album. The long answer is also no. The intermediary answer has yet to be confirmed but is believed to also be no.

As far as Christmas songs go, ‘Fuck Christmas’ probably occupies the same level of notoriety as Dog Soldiers does among werewolf films: everybody in the know knows the score, but nobody in the know is worth a fuck in the grand scheme of things. ‘Fuck Christmas’ wasn’t even deemed worthy of inclusion on Fear’s one work of note: 1982’s The Record. It ghosted in on reissues of the underrated hardcore band’s finest record.

As Christmas songs go, ‘Fuck Christmas’ has it all: a romantic, Dio-like proto-metal intro; rich Dickensian imagery; lots of them vibrato things on guitar; the “bad” F-word. More importantly, it flips the entire Christmas carol concept on its head. Frontman Lee Ving sings “don’t despair, just because it’s Christmas,” depicting The Most Wonderful Day of the Year, quite rightly, as the miserable, regret-filled season that is for many of us. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

And at just 45 seconds, it’s short enough that you can listen to 106 times in a row without getting bored. Hoo-ha!

Fear –

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When we think of classic Christmas songs, it tends to be the case that the older the song, the better.

In a sense, this is a natural reaction to the passage of time and our innate distrust of the present, but perhaps it also says something about how pop culture has captured Christmas. While much of what we now consider “Christmassy” we owe to Dickens, an awful lot of it is also dated to the ’50s and ’60s when “pop culture” properly began in earnest with the rapid spread of television and other visual media.

How refreshing, then, to have a Christmas classic from our own time. Perhaps this is a little too early for much of the Sputnik demographic, but it’s certainly within the timeline of our editors to remember a time when Mariah Carey was a) relevant, b) disgustingly beautiful and c) not world-renowned as a crazy person. In the early ’90s, Mariah still had her natural breasts and was quite comfortably the most successful pop singer around, and still she found time to write and sing one of the best Christmas songs ever produced.

But then she met Eminem.

12 Days of Christmas: #1 - White Christmas / #2 – Popical Island / #3 – Last Christmas / #4 – Christmas in Harlem / #5 – All I Want For Christmas is You / #6 – Fuck Christmas / #7 –

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Kanye West’s been neglecting his G.O.O.D. Fridays project as of late – no new updates since mid-November – but you didn’t really think he could let Christmas pass without another gift, did you?

The base track for ‘Christmas in Harlem’ “leaked” (in other words, Kanye sent it out) on Wednesday, featuring professional famous person Teyana Taylor, but Kanye confirmed that a version with more guests was impending. Barely 24 hours, he’d “leaked” it – the recording featuring Cam’ron, Vado, Jim Jones, CyHi Da Prynce, Pusha T, Musiq and, of course, Teyana.

Kanye West – ‘Christmas in Harlem’

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12 Days of Christmas: #1 - White Christmas / #2 – Popical Island / #3 – Last Christmas / #4 – Christmas in Harlem / #5 – All I Want For Christmas is You / #6 – Fuck Christmas / #7 – Merry Xmas Everybody#8 – Ferrell & Reilly / #9 – Shit Christmas Without You / #10 / #11 / #12

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I have a bone to pick with “Last Christmas” and no, it’s probably not the one George Michael is hoping for. I don’t really care that it’s overplayed and over-saturated. Five, now six times on today’s blog? Whatever. I don’t even mind George Michael’s breathy, exasperated delivery. I mean, it makes me a little uncomfortable, but I’ll get over it. Nope. My problem with “Last Christmas” is that it does not make sense.

Now I don’t know what George Michael went to school for, if he went at all, but I doubt he studied much math. The other guy in Wham? I don’t know who he is. I don’t care, either, because he’s also obviously not too strong with numbers. Let’s look at “Last Christmas” as if it were a math problem. A really simple one, too. Like, second grade simple.

So, George Michael has one heart.

George Michael gives his heart away to someone. Presumably the other guy in Wham.

Guy who now has George Michael’s heart gives it away the very next day, perhaps explaining why I haven’t heard anything from him since.

At this point, George Michael doesn’t have a heart. Insert joke here.

How, then, can he give it to someone special next year?

He can’t.

“Last Christmas” is an insult to mathematical logic and I will not stand for it.

PS: You can point out that medically it is impossible for one

Not a lot of people know this, but there are an awful lot of deranged, fanatical people out there who have dedicated large parts of their lives to archiving all 150+ versions of Wham!’s festive classic ‘Last Christmas.’

Naturally, I’m one of them.

Until an unfortunate incident with a fried motherboard destroyed my collection, I had upwards of 50 versions of the song in my possession, from almost every genre imaginable. Granted, many of those imaginable genres are the sort of trashy pop nobody sane would ever want to imagine (although I will defend Whigfield’s version to the death), but there’s an awful lot of good stuff mixed in there.

Come to think of it, had I been more clever about this, I’d have scrapped the “12 Days of Christmas” idea and just gone with the “12 Days of Last Christmas.” Maybe next year. In the meantime, feel free to take in 5 of the best.

#1: Wham!

#2: Taylor Swift

#3:  James Dean Bradfield

#4: Oda Yuji w/ Butch Walker

#5: Rachel & Finn w/ the Cast of Glee

12 Days of Christmas: #1 - White Christmas / #2 – Popical Island / #3 – Last Christmas / #4 – Christmas in Harlem / #5 – All I Want For Christmas is You / #6 – Fuck Christmas / #7 – Merry Xmas Everybody#8 – Ferrell & Reilly / #9 – Shit Christmas Without You / #10 / #11 / #12

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Yesterday, we began our countdown with a classic from over half a century ago. Today, we focus on something much more recent – so recent, in fact, it was only released today.

The Popical Island Collective came together largely of necessity – Irish labels are overwhelmingly biased towards either commercial music or punk – but the common thread that unites the likes of Squarehead, Yeh Deadlies and So Cow masks the huge amount of diversity within their ranks. The collective has been buzzing around the Irish music scene for less than a year, but already they’ve made quite an impression on the local scene with a double of upbeat indie pop compilations, the second of which can be found below.

A Hard Old Station: Christmas With the Popical Island Showband is a six-track EP featuring four original numbers from lo-fi pop acts Yeh Deadlies, The Walpurgis Family, Tieranniesaur (solo project of Yeh Deadlies’ Annie Tierney) and Jonny Fun and the… Hesitation, as well as two tracks from the 21-member Popical Island Showband, made up of members from the aforementioned acts.

12 Days of Christmas: #1 - White Christmas / #2 – Popical Island / #3 – Last Christmas / #4 – Christmas in Harlem / #5 – All I Want For Christmas is You / #6 – Fuck Christmas / #7 – Merry Xmas Everybody#8 – Ferrell & Reilly / #9 – Shit Christmas Without You / #10 / #11 / #12

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Last week’s post about the phenomenal ‘Horse Outside‘ (naturally the world’s media followed our lead a couple of days later) got me to thinking – what other great songs have been written about horses?

Horses play an important role in  western cultural mythology – think everything from the cowboys to Black Beauty – and it’s no less pronounced in music. Horses are hugely symbolic creatures: strong, graceful and difficult to tame. In other words, the very qualities that most (male) musicians would like to see in themselves.

I’ve decided to limit the countdown to actual horse-related songs, which unfortunately means no euphemisms. That means no ‘Horse it Into Ya, Cynthia‘ and no Band of Horses. It also excludes every song ever written about heroin, which rules out 90% of rock songs written between 1968 and 1995.

#5: Metallica – ‘Four Horsemen’ (from Kill ‘Em All)

#4: Aerosmith – – ‘Back in the Saddle’ (from Rocks)

#3: Rolling Stones – ‘Wild Horses’ (from Sticky Fingers)

#2: Iron Maiden – ‘The Trooper’ (from Piece of Mind)

#1: Father Ted – ‘My Lovely Horse’ (from Song for Europe)

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Before you post the final and non-retractable version of your ”2010 Songs of The Year” list, be sure to listen to What Happened?, a criminally unheard gem off Animal Collective’s score to the experimental film ODDSAC. It’s a track that mixes the reckless forward momentum of “Turn Into Something” with the electronic pallet of Strawberry Jam, Avey Tare combating a constant squeal and a relentlessly uptempo drum loop for three breathtaking minutes. Tare’s on his A game here, his yelp of the title lyric warm but also shrilly desperate, Animal Collective invoking its trademark brand of nostalgia and adding something sinister. “What happened to make me suffer inside?” goes the opening lyric. Who knows exactly, but looking at the wild party scene the song accompanies, my guess is growing old happened, and youth is now a hazy, hallucinatory memory of constant abandon. Not to be missed.

Though the phrase “Twelve Days of Christmas” traditionally refers to the period beginning on Christmas Day, we at Sputnikmusic are far more interested in the dozen days leading up to it, when the anticipation and excitement builds and builds until the inevitable disappointment kicks in on Christmas morning. Over the next twelve days, we hope to expose you to every facet of the Christmas music experience, from the impossibly earnest to the self-consciously ironic to the downright offensive and everything in between.

We begin, though, with a classic.

Montgomery Burns once lamented: “Smithers, years ago I blew the chance to buy Picasso’s Guernica for a song. Luckily, that song was ‘White Christmas,’ and by hanging onto it I made billions!” The story may have been fictional (although the Simpsons is otherwise 100% factually accurate) but the sentiment was right: Bing Crosby’s recording of Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’ remains the best-selling single of all-time and will likely never be beat.

For those of us who live in less than arctic climates, the “White Christmas” remains an annual fantasy, an ideal that belies the fact any significant amount of snowfall scares the shit out of us, destroys our infrastructure and sends us into varying degrees of deranged panic. Every year. It’s testament to the beauty of the imagery, and the song, that ‘White Christmas’ remains the season’s most enduring staple and the feather in the cap of one of pop music’s greatest ever singers.

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When I was fourteen, Muse became my favorite band. Considering what I’d been listening to before I heard them, they were actually a fairly sophisticated choice. I was finally starting to move beyond the realm of bands like Good Charlotte, Senses Fail, and New Found Glory (which I had moved on to from Christian music). I had been taking piano lessons for about five years, and I had grown to hate the instrument, mostly because I hated my teacher. So I was impressed with a band like Muse, who could write songs in which the piano sounded like something wholly different from the object of my distaste. They were playing the kind of music that I had always wanted to learn in my lessons but never did.  It wasn’t necessarily difficult to play (barring the solo in “Butterflies And Hurricanes,” which floored me when my fourteen year old ears heard it), but it was certainly memorable, and as someone who wanted to forget all about the piano, that impressed me to no end.

Looking back, I find myself much more ashamed of loving them as much as I did than I am of loving a band like Good Charlotte, because Muse are now the worst band ever.

When Muse first started getting a lot of attention, there were a lot of Radiohead comparisons, which sent die-hard Radiohead fans into a tizzy because of Muse’s supposed unworthiness of the honor. That’s true, of course – Radiohead are a far superior band…


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