A Very St. Louis Christmas

A local label gives you a soundtrack for the holidays

Dec 1, 2004 at 4:00 am
In last week's Thanksgiving column, I threatened to move directly to the Christmas column this week. You may have thought I was joking. I was not. The world lit up with Christmas cheer at 11:59 p.m. last Wednesday. Or at least the TV and malls did. The Radar Station CD Bag started filling up with Christmas-themed discs a month ago. From the Trans-Siberian Orchestra box set to the Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas disc (wish I was kidding), there's a Christmas album coming out this year for everyone but hardcore atheist battle rappers (and that'll probably show up in my mailbox this week). There is far, far too much music about Christmas (I'm counting that crazed song about bells everywhere, the "Here are the bells/There go the bells/I ate some bells/Bells, bells, bells, bells" song twice. That's how you get the second "far.")

The only two Christmas albums everyone on Earth needs are Elvis Presley's Blue Christmas and Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift for You (featuring the Crystals' awesome version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." The King will get you through the quiet nights when you can curl up with snow hitting the window and winter seems a beautiful thing. Phil Spector will get you through the rest. Slip on the headphones and dig the Crystals while punching out old housewives and ripping the Halo 2 out of their numb fingers or making your cousin a homemade Barbie out of chewing tobacco. You know, the fun part of the season.

After those two albums, it's just a matter of taste. Jewish and drunk? You've got that damn Adam Sandler Chanukah song. Thirteen? Dr. Demento Presents: Greatest Xmas Novelty CD will annoy your family just the way the fam annoys you. Ironic? New Kids on the Block's Merry, Merry Christmas will impress your hipster friends to no end.

But if you're from St. Louis, you might want to check out A Very Bert Dax Christmas, Vol III. Matt Harnish, head of the very laid-back Bert Dax label, dropped off a copy at my office last week, ensuring that I wouldn't just toss it on top of the teetering Christmas pile.

Harnish is also the frontman for Bunnygrunt, whose "Seasons Freaklings" went from an earlier Bert Dax Christmas disc to the soundtrack of Bad Santa. There's no Bunnygrunt on this year's album, but there's still an impressive selection of local rock & rollers. The BaySayBoos open up the disc with "Fum! Fum! Fum!," a song that pretty much sets the tone for the whole album: lo-fi, fun and just tongue-in-cheek enough to keep you from gagging, while not being so snotty as to make the whole thing a farce.

Even better is the Mega Hurts' "All I Got for Christmas Was This Lousy Gun." This all-gal indie-pop band makes lines like "Oh my God/You got blood all over the Christmas tree" sound like a sweet party jam. The Sex Robots' "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)" sounds a little too much like the Ramones' original version, but if you're going to sound too much like someone, make it the Ramones.

Those are just the first three tracks. Harnish and the other Bert Dax folks know that a disc like this needs to be short to stay sweet, so they squeeze ten tracks on to thirty minutes and call it a day. The noisy, brilliant "Holly Jolly Christmas" by Grandpa's Ghost gets bursts of madness and low melodies into two minutes. The Highway Matrons stretch out a little more with Peter Green's "Got the Blues for Christmas." You can smell bourbon through your speakers.

So, if you're shopping for someone with thick black plastic glasses and ironic T-shirts, pick 'em up a copy of A Very Bert Dax Christmas. Wait, don't. One part of Christmas marketing that's never made any sense to me is when people buy someone else Christmas-related items and give them to them for Christmas, right when they want to vomit at the mere mention of the holiday. "Thanks a lot for giving me this thing, which I can now put in a box in the closet for a whole year!" Buy people things they can use right away, like, for instance, a Honda ASIMO, the first two-legged walking humanoid robot. (Please? Please?)

So just buy it for yourself. Pick it up at Vintage Vinyl or better yet, check out the release parties this weekend. Friday at Lemmons you can see the Mega Hurts and the Sex Robots. Saturday the Way Out Club hosts the BaySayBoos, Lost to Metric and Googolplexia. Either way, you can pick up the disc while listening to some secular tunes. Make it your own little office party of the soul. Drink some whiskey. Hit on your imaginary co-worker. Say something really inappropriate to your pretend boss. Vomit in a wastebasket, photocopy your genitals, get a late-night tattoo of Bugs Bunny having sex with John Ashcroft. (Well, that's how office parties work around here, anyway.) Then buy the disc for yourself. After all, buying it supports the local music scene, and while that might not be up there with helping Tiny Tim learn to walk, it's a good deed. And that, my friends, is the true meaning of Christmas. God bless us, everyone. (Cue "Silent Night," fade out.)