Isn’t Christmas music great? Some genres have far more notoriety than they actually deserve (Aryan rap, for instance), but Christmas music really punches above its weight. It’s… fuc
Most of the worst music ever made has been reserved for the holiday season; otherwise respectable songwriters like Noddy Holder and Elton John have churned out some of the worst, while Bob Geldof’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ has become a cruel reminder to the record-buying public of exactly why they’d stopped buying his records before punk died. Two former Beatles, Lennon and McCartney, even managed to catch Christmas fever, vomiting out two equally vile shit
storms that damned the former prematurely to hell and the latter into a marriage with Satan herself. Oh god, the leg!
Luckily, much of it lies in the presentation. As Noel Gallagher amply demonstrated, a turd can be polished (see: 1997 – 2007 in music); the Oasis main-man made a great track out of one of the worst songs ever, transforming Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ from an up-tempo party track (i.e. you need to drunk to like it) into a dark and bitterly sarcastic lament. Similarly, LA-based crooner Richard Cheese seems to have co-opted nature and found a use for Bob Geldof, re-telling ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ as a punchy big band number, exposing the blunt naivety (or hollowness, if you’re that
cynical) of the lyrics and, basically, changing the melody so it doesn’t sound like complete sh
Cheese, in case yer not aware, has made a name for himself in the last couple of years turning the tables on the swing band musical tradition, baulking at the standards that most band leaders perform and instead covering contemporary alternative rock and metal, exposing the ludicrousness of the expletive-ridden lyrics and misplaced emotion of the one and the ridiculous posturing of the latter. Gimmicky as hell, yes, but he’s more than just a novelty act; Cheese and his band, Lounge Against The Machine, handle some pretty sophisticated arrangements, and handle them well.
is, surprisingly, Cheese’s first Christmas album (to put things in perspective, Frank Sinatra’s been dead for five years and he’s still performed on 99% of the available Christmas albums). Almost as surprising, there’s not a single metal or alt. rock song to be found; in fact, with the exception of Dead Kennedys’ ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ and Rush’s ‘Trees,’ all of the covers are either pop songs or standards.
That’s not to say they’re in any way traditional, however: the logic used to choose the tracks can be described, at best, as “ballpark”: Beyoncé’s ‘Naughty Girl’ and Depeche Mode’s ‘Personal Jesus’ are grasping but understandable; Vanilla Ice’s ‘Ice Ice Baby’ is pushing it; ‘Like A Virgin’ is just gratuitous. On the flip side, ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ can’t but remind us of the true meaning of Christmas: blank slates, black uniforms, collectivised farming, Pol Pot- all that.
At just over twenty-five minutes, Silent Nightclub
is breezy, easy listening in every sense. Cheese is, at this stage, well versed in the dos-and-don’ts of his craft and, at well under two minutes a pop, the jokes rarely have a chance to become stale. Certain cuts, like Rush’s ‘In the Trees’ and John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ (yeah, go figure), never really get going, but the aforementioned ‘Do They Know’ barely has time to get going before the singer fluffs the second line of the chorus and spends the remainder complaining that it’s “too high,” while ‘Jingle Bells’ is soon revealed to be a cover of the Barking Dogs’ kitschy rendition, replete with a “woof woof woof” hook.
The tiki-bar version of Beyoncé’s ‘Naughty Girl’ with a genuine “ooh ka cha ka” backbeat may be the album’s highlight, purely on the basis of how inappropriate it is, but it’s hard pushed by the high-energy opener ‘Holiday in Cambodia,’ the borderline drunken ‘Like A Virgin’ (who else but Madonna?) and closer ‘Silent Night’ (featuring Weird Al Yankovic). Richard even squeezes in an original; ‘Christmas In Las Vegas’ features little of the flair of the aforementioned tracks, but its hilarious, embarrassing and utterly cliché-ridden lyrics alone make it a worthy addition to any Christmas catalogue, as he sings, ”Christmas in Las Vegas, it’s like Bethlehem with bling!”
Having released four albums in five years, it seems even the King of Cheese was wary of turning one trick too many. He made the decision to cross the street and make what could, on the surface, be conceived as a straightforward Christmas album, and it’s definitely worked out for him. Silent Nightclub
is the perfect album for Cheese and Lounge Against The Machine to make; his other albums will be pulled out from time to time by their owners in years to come, and they’ll amuse every time, but with Silent Nightclub
he’s made an album that has a definite timeframe, and may just give his music the longevity it deserves.