By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
Rest assured, gentle readers, that we read and treasure all of your letters, even the ones that contain graphic anal-penetration analogies. Keep 'em coming, party people! (Confidential to Ben: When you are "huge rock stars" and we "want tickets to your show at the Savis [sic] Center," we won't need to "bow to the power of rock" because we'll be too busy "watching hell freeze over.")
As sorry as we are to disappoint those who believe our role as "local-music subversive," "wolf in sheep's clothing" and "total imperialist pussy" requires us to "piss all over hardworking musicians," we've gotta say that the local-band compilation A Very Bert Dax Christmas, Vol. 1, rules our Yule: eight songs, eight bands and not a single second that's piss-worthy. Matt Harnish -- who plays bass in two of the bands on the CD, Julia Sets and the Brown Company -- is the brains behind the Bert Dax Cavalcade of Stars, the local label putting out the comp. He's also a contributor to the RFT's music section, and, if that causes the paranoid fringe to assume we're just "blowing smoke up our friends' asses," it can't be helped (although we have it on good authority that Harnish secretly hates us even more than we secretly hate him). More to the point, he's practically earned a Ph.D. in Santa studies, having helped out with the Better Than Fruitcake local-band Christmas comp that came out a couple of years back and having entertained many lofty thoughts about the true meaning of Christmas (see his record review on page 77).
And the brutal truth? Christmas ain't all about the eggnog and marzipan and caroling cherubs in Gap knitwear. All those of you who've narrowly escaped death by SUV on icy highways only to find yourselves trapped in a knotty-pine-paneled basement with your fucked-up kinfolk are not in the mood to hear some happy-happy-joy-joy lying Christmas crap about winter wonderlands and button noses and weird old guys who see you when you're sleeping and know when you're awake and aren't even John Ashcroft. Nosirree. You want to hear the Bert Dax Christmas comp, which is beautiful and real and true and, more important, funny enough to make you forget how much you hate your stupid cousins. Fuck sleighbells: Bring on the menacing chain noises, as the deranged brainiacs of Butt do on "Cruisin' for a Christmas Time Bruisin'." You wanna hear the Phonocaptors' dumb, bludgeoning horndog innuendoes about good-lookin' Christmas trees. Or maybe you'll get your Yuletide cheer on when you behold the brilliant quicksilver guitar figures in the Brown Company's "All I Want for Christmas Is for You to Get the Hell Out of My Life" -- and if that won't do it, dig Chris Trull's genius lyrics: "Please don't clothe yourself in green and red/I find those colors so unpleasant/Sometimes I wish I could break up with you/No more buying you a present." Elsewhere, the Gentleman Callers deliver a Nuggets-perfect garage-rock rave-up; the Flamerz cover Slade's cynical classic "Merry Christmas, Everybody"; Fred's Variety Group welds an old Jewish folk song to an almost unrecognizable "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"; and Julia Sets references both Alex Chilton and Robert Frost.
But Radar Station, always a sucker for the sad songs, keeps hitting "repeat" on the Fantasy Four's "How I Spent My Christmas Vacation." As her twelve-string dances around Marcia Pandolfi's baritone guitar, Karen Stephens sweetly coos, "Merry Christmas, why aren't we together/It's 'cause I'm stupid and afraid of winter weather." It's possibly the prettiest and the saddest Stephens-penned song ever, and, when she gets to the end, when she sings, "It doesn't matter anymore/I've ruined everyone's Christmas before," you'll get that lovely trembly holiday feeling, as if you've just drunk a gallon of eggnog and you suddenly, right this minute, need to make snow angels alone under the queasy Christmas lights.