vrijdag 14 november 2014

Overview of 2013 Christmas singles: Part III (final-ly)

I have never published the last part of the overview of Christmas singles on this blog, so now we are getting nearer and nearer to Christmas 2014, it's time I also published this last part here.

One label that usually puts out a Christmas 7” every year is Damaged Goods. Last Christmas, they released a great single by Helen Love and Ricardo Autobahn ('The Salvation Army'). This year, Damaged Good did not really release a new 7”, but choose to repackage a 7” of a few years ago, 'Christmas 1979' by Damaged Goods regular Billy Childish, this time under the moniker Wild Billy Childish & The Musicians Of The British Empire. This new package has the two versions of the 7” (one green and one red vinyl), plus a homevideo of Billy Childish, starring his son. The two 7”'s and the homevideo come packed in a special cardbord cover. I guess the label still had quite some copies of the 7” left, and this is an inventive way to get rid of them.

Another Christmas 7” that in fact is a ghost from Christmas past is put out by Japanese label Merritone Records. They have re-released a Christmas 7” by Jamaican rocksteady artist Hopeton Lewis, 'Happy Christmas'. The B-side has the instrumental 'Lester Sterling Special', by Lester Sterling with Lynn Taitt And The Jets, which has no Christmas connection. I like rocksteady versions of Christmas song, and I also truly enjoyed this song. No video on Youtube or sound on Soundcloud, but you can listen to a small sample of the songs of this 7” here:

Although Christmas is a celebration of the birth, and not of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christmas 2013 did bring the resurrection of the punk band Impact from Wales. In 1983, they released their only EP, which was called 'Punk Christmas', and it featured the title song on the A-side, and two non-Christmas songs on the B-side. Now, 30 years later, they released a new EP, that they called 'Punk Punk Christmas' (I guess they wanted to have a different name, despite the fact that the artwork of the front cover is exactly the same as the 1983 original, and they kinda ran out of inspiration). It features a new version of 'Punk Christmas' of the original EP (that is, of course, called 'Punk Punk Christmas'), the original recording of the song from 1983, and two new songs, that I haven't heard yet, but I guess from the titles, that it aren't really Christmas songs ('Queen And Country' and 'Something Must Be Done'). It comes on green, white and red vinyl, each version limited to 100 copies, and is released on Anti Society Records. Decided for yourself which version of the title song you like best, the 2013 version of the 1983 version. Now it's waiting for Christmas 2043, when they will release 'Punk Punk Punk Christmas'...
New version:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3rx43bWPRM
Old version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90ayIv8j58Y

Rise Above Records is a label started by Napalm Death member Lee Dorrian. Although Napalm Death is known for their extreme grindcore assault, Rise Above is focused on bands that sound like they have taken far too many drugs. Rise Above Records has celebrated its 25th year of existince this December, and as part of this celebration, they have released a Christmas split-7” (another addition to the already many Christmas split 7”'s that have been released in 2013), that was given out to all people going to the anniversary show. The 7” has two songs, recorded by two bands that played the anniversary show: The Sharon Tate Experience and Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell. Even if you hadn't know that Rise Above is a label focused on psychedelic music, the name of these bands would have spoken for themselves. My favorite of the two songs is 'Christmas Killer' by The Sharon Tate Experience, that has more a Christmas feeling, and sounds like a garage cover of a 1960 Christmas song. 'Blow Up The Xmas Tree' by Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell is pretty decent, but doesn't really sound like a Christmas song, more like late 1970s hard rock.
Sharon Tate Experience: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiHd4P8A2AI
Admiral Sir Cloudesley: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBtHYBRWv48

It will be difficult to get your hands on a copy of this Rise Above Records split, but it will be even more difficult to find a copy of one of the three one-sided Christmas 7”'s put out by the Danish label Mastermind Records. Of all three 7”'s 24 copies are cut: it are lathé cut 7”'s, so no vinyl, but still, I choose to include them, as they are pretty good. The songs featured on these 7”'s have all been recorded before 2013. The first of the three, with catalog number MRSPJUL13 (I guess JUL stands for Jule, and not for July; the number 13 also makes me wonder if in previous years already 12 limited Christmas 7”'s have been released on the label), is by the punk pop / power pop band Glow Kit, and the song on the 7” is 'Christmas Daze'. It's a pretty good indie rock song, that was already available digitally through Youtube at Christmas 2012.

Even older is the second 7”, by psychedelic band Powersolo. The song 'Beam Mig Op Jesus' was already put on Youtube Christmas 2009. Another pretty good song, and I wonder if the title stands for 'Beam Me Up Jesus'... The song on the third 7”, by a Danish surf band with the name The Tremolo Beer Gut (more a name for a garage / punk band, if you ask me), 'Santa Duane (Jengo Balls Version)', has been released on a split Christmas EP with Leopold Kraus Wellenkapelle (yes, I saved all the weird band names for this part) in 2007 on German label Rhythm Island Records. I haven't been able to track this song down yet, so I can't tell you how it sounds, but there haven't been many surf Christmas songs that I didn't like, so I am pretty sure I would have liked the song.
Glow Kit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygdKiaECkvk
Powersolo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_a97pFjITE

Belgium all star band Hitsville Drunks is another band that released a one-side Christmas 7” this year, on local label Starman Records. It has the song 'JC Says JC', an original. The band is described as Mauro Pawlowski’s power pop group, and the song is also to be found on Youtube:

This year, also Austria brought us a Christmas single. It's titled 'Stray Dogs On Christmas' and it's done by Lost Compadres (like that name!), a Vienna based quintet that, according to their website, do their own twisted version of Americana. Which is not as strange as it sound, Americana from the Alps, as wasn't jodelling a popular ingedrient of country one time, a singing technique that has its roots in the same Alps. No jodelling in this Christmas song, unfortuately (or not), that the band 'a heartbreaking loser's ballad'.

Not really a Christmas single, but it has a winter theme going on, was released early December and our local record store put the single with the other new Christmas singles they were selling, so I choose to include it anyway: the new 7” of Dutch band Labasheeda. It is a EP with five songs, of which only the title song has a winter theme: 'Listen, The Snow Is Falling'. It is a cover of a song originally recorded by Yoko Ono. As the band was without a drummer when they recorded this EP(that includes one re-interpretation of an older songer of the band and on side B three brand new songs), the single shows the more 'introspective side' of the band, at least, that is how they describe it themselves. It was released on US label Presto Rango Records, but it is also available, for us Europeans, directly from the band. I don't know the original version of the song, but I do like the version Labasheeda recorded – worth to check out, and as it is a winter single, and not a Christmas single, you can still listen to it in January and February without having to explain to your family or room mates why you are playing Christmas songs weeks after Christmas...

The winter does not limit itself to December, so also January can bring winter-themed singles. In December 2012, UK singer Mary Epworth released a 4 song CD EP, 'Snow Queen', with four songs about snow and winter. That was a good timing, as December 2012 did bring quite some snow, at least here in Europe, if I remember well. Now two of the songs of the EP have been re-released on Hand Of Glory Records on a 7”, the title track and 'Ice And Snow', on snow white vinyl. Of course! The timing is not as good as for the CD-version, as January 2014 has seen spring-like temperatures and no snow at all, mostly. Both songs on the 7", that sound as having been put out in the psychedelic late 1960s, definitely have a winter-y feel, a subtile sound that breaks through the stillness of a cold winter night. It is limited to 250 copies, so will be gone soon, as soon as snow that melts in the spring sun.
Snow Queen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7gYdbBYEXw
Ice And Snow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJhRNLZBzZw

A Christmas 7” that was only available in the digital format at Christmas 2013, but now is also available on green-red vinyl, has been put out by Soft Speak Records from Hoboken, New Jersey. The label calls it 'Christmas Split', although the name 'Christmas Compilation' serves better to describe the record, as it has four bands with as many songs. All songs are cover versions of quite well known Christmas songs, and all bands can be considered US indie rock. You Blew It! do a very messy sounding version of 'Rocking Around The Christmas Tree', with lot of back up vocals, which actually sounds quite nice. Dikembe cover 'All I Want For Christmas Is You', and play it very slooowww... Have Mercy play a over-the-top version 'White Christmas', and, finally, Kittyhawk do a slackerish version of 'Silver Bells'. Proceeds go to Toys For Tots, which also is really in line with the Christmas tradition, as I remember Christmas singles from the 1950s that were released to raise money for this charity. All four songs can be listened on the Bandcamp page of the label:

There are more 2013 Christmas singles that were officially released in January 2014, although I think this particular one already was already available in December, for those people who went to see Canadian singer/songwriter Ben Caplan on his European solo tour. It's called 'Ben Caplan Festivus Volume One', which sounds as if more volumes should follow... I hope in time for Christmas 2014! Only the A-side has a song with a Christmas theme. It features one of the most covered 'modern' Christmas songs, 'Fairytale Of New York', originally recorded by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl in 1987, and one of few really classic Christmas songs the 1980s gave us. Ben Caplan looks like a rather big guy, a bit like a younger and Irish version (because: big red beard) of Santa Claus and certainly has a big voice, so that's probably why the Kirsty MacColl role is not done by one female singer, but by four: the four women of the Norwegian folk / punk cabaret band Katzenjammer. The third guilty party in this Christmas conspiracy is an orchestra that listen to the name Trondheimsolistene, from the name I would guess they are also from Norway, and of course, they are. The song was already recorded in 2012, and the video of the song was on Youtube last Christmas, but now it's also out on vinyl. The accompaniment of the orchestra gives the song a chamber pop feeling, more than the folk feeling of the original. A nice try, but it is simply impossible to come close to the original version.

Another Canadian 7” that was intended for Christmas, but was only ready 2 days before Christmas, so reached no one before Christmas (is this just a coincidence, or are Canadians just not that good at planning?) is by Toronto-based band The New Mendicants, that features some big names from the alternative music scene: Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub), Joe Pernice (Pernice Brothers) and Mike Belitsky (Sadies). It has 'A Very Sorry Christmas' on side A and 'A Very Sorry New Years' on side B. I guess they are excusing themselves for being so late, but they make it up by offering quality. The band describe the single themselves as 'a Yuletide ode to seasonal woe and disappointment', in which 'guitars shine and jangle counter-intuitively while Joe & Norman declare “Oh Silent Night, Guilty Night...I’m carrying a cross you won’t believe…”. Right. I would say it are long lost Christmas songs recorded by The Byrds in the late 1960s. The New Mendicants have also put out an album in January, and if it is in line with this single, it will be pretty good. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_NCgVvQCWs

We close with a complete overview of all Christmas 7”'s of 2013 – if you know of any other, please let me know!

Indie / Alt. Rock
* Ben Caplan with Katzenjammer & Trondheimsolistene / Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers: A Ben Caplan Festivus Volume One
* Hitsville Drunks: JC Says JC
* Labasheeda: Listen, The Snow Is Falling EP
* Lost Compadres: Stray Dogs On Christmas
* Mary Epworth: Snow Queen
* Rose Melberg & Gregory Webster: Kingfisher Bluez Christmas Single 2013
* Sudden Death Of Stars - Beat Mark: Winter Warmer Split 7" Christmas Single
* Seize The Chair / Best Friends: I Just Want To Sleep / When Christmas Comes
* Smoke Fairies: Simple Feelings / I Wonder As I Wander
* The Garlands: Christmas Song / I Don't Intend To Spend Christmas Without You
* The Miserable Rich: Everything You Wanted / Stop The Cavalry
* The New Medicants: A Very Sorry Christmas / A Very Sorry New Years
* You Blew It! / Dikembe / Have Mercy / Kittyhawk: Christmas Split

Psychedelic Rock
* Powersolo: Beam Mig Op Jesus
* The Sharon Tate Experience / Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell: Christmas Killer / Blow Up The Xmas Tree

Garage Rock
* Glow Kit: Christmas Daze
* Jeff Hershey & The Heartbeats: Santa Claus Is A Monster
* Wild Billy Childish & The Musicians Of The British Empire: Christmas 1979 (double-7”, re-issue)

* The Hollyberries: I Wanna Go Surfin' With Santa! And Other (Mostly Christmas) Surf-Pop Delights EP
* The Silhouettes: Under The Mistletoe / Merry Little Christmas
* The Tremolo Beer Gut: Santa Duane (Jengo Balls Version)

* Bad Religion: Father Christmas
* Evil Conduct / The Old Firm Casuals: Yuletide Cheers & Oi!
* Figgy & The Scrooges: Alcoholiday EP
* Girl Trouble / The Dignitaries: Letter To Santa / I Know Why Santa Is Drunk
* Impact: Punk Christmas EP
* Masked Intruder: Under The Mistletoe
* Misfits: Horror Xmas (3 versions)
* Möngöl Hörde / Jamie Lenman: Xtra Mile Single Sessions 8 (track: How The Communists Ruined Christmas)
* Poison Idea / Angry Snowman: Santa Claus Is Back In Town / Sugar Plum

* Miguel Angelo: O Teu Natal

* !!!: And Anyway It's Christmas
* Loren Connors: Christmas Day

Soul / Funk
* Bobby Allen And The Exceptions: Soul Chicken / Lonely Christmas Tears (re-issue)
* Sha La Das: Sha La Da La La (Christmas Time)

Reggae / Ska / Rocksteady
* Hopeton Lewis / Lester Sterling with Lynn Taitt And The Jets: Happy Christmas / Lester Sterling Special (re-issue)

* Blind Boys Of Alabama / Jason Isbell & John Paul White: Christmas In Dixie / Old Flame

* Vince Guaraldi Trio: Linus And Lucy (re-issue)