Just Say Noël
by Nik Rainey
Here’s a big hunk of alternacoal for your hole-ridden, shot-elastic stocking. Not that this collection is bad or anything, but how can you expect a seasonal comp from the conglomerate that brought you the happy, boppy cheer of Jinglebells Cobain not to lace its mistletoe with nettles? Aside from the one or two more or less straight X-massages (Ted Hawkins‘ “Amazing Grace” and XTC‘s “Thanks For Christmas” [and even that one must have some irony in its blood, considering it’s by the guy who wrote “Dear God”]), Just Say Noël is fraught with misshapen ornaments either irreverent, depressing, or both. Whether it’s Beck‘s transmogrification of a boring standard into beatbox poetry (“The Little Drum Machine Boy”), Sonic Youth doing a Martin Mull (!!) song as only they can (i.e. noisy, discordant, and way out of tune) on “Santa Doesn’t Cop Out On Dope,” or The Roots pulling a drive-by sleighing (“Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa”), the edgiest stuff here sets the Evergreen to cracklin’ like nothing short of my (imagined) favorite holiday insanity, Black Lights on the Tree: Death Metal and Goth Artists Sing the Works of Andy Williams and Burl Ives. And if that’s not enough, drink in the melancholia-nog of The Posies, Wild Colonials, and Remy Zero, all of whom sound like they’re hoping for gift boxes from Gillette this year. Elastica pulls out a cool number that doesn’t necessarily sound Decemberian, Southern Culture on the Skids celebrates with a Yule log in the trailer park, and “The Closing of the Year,” by The Musical Cast of Toys featuring Wendy & Lisa is a great reminder that Christmas also means big-budgeted movies that flop like a drunken Claus into a wading pool. Nothing terribly holly or jolly here, which is good ’cause misery, depression and overall weirdness are the kinda things that should be spread out throughout the year, making this a lasting addition to any hepster’s CD library.