It’s December the 14th now but it already seems like the Christmas ditties have been permeating our ear drums for about 6 months. And whilst the majority of them are trite, gushing, frothy nonsense, there also the other type, the best type – the miserable ones. Here’s a list of the 5 best doleful Christmas smashes.
5) Gruff Rhys – Post Apocalypse Christmas
Welshman and singer for Super Furry Animals Rhys has always been known for his strange provocative wordsmithery. A prime example comes in a verse of their single Hermann vs. Pauline, “Marie Curie was Polish-born but French-bred. Ha! FRENCH BREAD” but in this song off Atheist Xmas EP, Armageddon has never before sounded so tinsel-filled
“Deep inside the concrete bunker, post apocalypse bunker
We lick our wounds to kills the hunger, post apocalypse Christmas”
4) Darlene Love – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
If there was ever a soundtrack to heartbreak at Christmas time, this 1960s classic sung by Darlene Love would be first on the track list. It’s a massive pounding 60s girl group number with the unmistakable sound of a certain Mr Phil Spector’s production. Darlene sings heart wrenchingly of a break up and her yearning for her lover over Christmas.
“They’re singing deck the halls, but it’s not like Christmas at all”
3) Joni Mitchell – River
Joni sings about the arrival of Christmas “it’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees, they’re putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace” over melancholy tides of piano before wiping away any illusions you might’ve had during the first few lines that it was going to be slushy by singing “oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on” The song is self deprecating, and wistful, and melancholy, and it’s beautiful.
“I’m so hard to handle, I’m selfish and I’m sad, now I’ve gone and lost the best baby, that I ever had, I wish I
had a river I could skate away on”
2) Tom Waits – Christmas card from a hooker in Minneapolis
The chances of Tom Waits writing a life affirming Christmas smash are about the same as his piano actually having the essential biological components that are required to drink and get drunk. So, it’s no surprise that this is a Christmas song with a twist. He tells the incredibly dour tale of a lady of the night reaching out to somebody she’s spent the night with at Christmas time. The piano intro is quite lengthy so you’d expect that it’d be enough to mentally compose yourself but as soon as the first line is delivered you know that’s not the case “Hey Charley I’m pregnant, Living on 9th Street, Right above a dirty bookstore, Off Euclid Avenue, I stopped taking dope, And I quit drinking whiskey, And my old man plays the trombone, And works out at the track”
and if that’s not enough he goes on to say…
“Everyone I used to know is either dead or in prison, so I came back to Minneapolis and I think I’m gonna stay here”
1)The Pogues and Kirsty McColl – Fairytale of New York
This song has probably been played so many times that the notes are branded on the surface of your ear drums but even then, you still have a hard time not admitting that its one of if not THE best Christmas song ever written. Elvis Costello is to thank for the creation of this song. When he was producing for The Pogues, he bet Shane MacGowan that he couldn’t write a song that wasn’t slushy. It’s one of the most remarkable Christmas songs of the 20th century and with a first line of “it was Christmas eve babe, in the drunk tank” you know it’s not going to be your average Christmas song.
“You’re a bum, you’re a punk, you’re an old slut on junk, laying there almost dead on that drip in that bed”