Search This Blog

Loading...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Barenaked Ladies: Barenaked For The Holidays

BARENAKED LADIES: BARENAKED FOR THE HOLIDAYS (2004)

1) Jingle Bells; 2) Green Christmas; 3) I Saw Three Ships; 4) Hanukkah Blessings; 5) O Holy Night; 6) Elf's Lament; 7) Snowman; 8) Do They Know It's Christmas; 9) Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah; 10) God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; 11) Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer; 12) Carol Of The Bells; 13) Footprints; 14) Deck The Stills; 15) Christmastime (Oh Yeah); 16) Sleigh Ride; 17) Christmas Pics; 18) I Have A Little Dreidel; 19) Wonderful Christmastime; 20) Auld Lang Syne.

I reserve the usual right to keep reviews of Christmas albums as short as possible, but the farther we get on with this practice, the more this traditional Christmas album format tends to be subjec­ted to various alchemic practices and postmodern deconstructions — and despite all their at­tempts at being judged as a «normal» band, it would never make sense for the Barenaked Ladies to release a «normal» Christmas album. So this one has a few points of interest that might be worth listing for those who think that the «Christmas album» is just a kind of discography var­mint, to be exterminated or at least boycotted wherever possible.

First, about a third of these songs are original compositions — ranging from fluffy ditties about having to celebrate Christmas in the wrong part of the world (ʽGreen Christmasʼ, the Ladies' con­scious addition to the stock of ʽWhite Christmasesʼ and ʽBlue Christmasesʼ) to Page's merry Brit-pop celebration of his Jewish heritage (ʽHanukkah Blessingsʼ) to some really weird stuff (ʽElf's Lamentʼ — lyrically, I mean) to another heartfelt ballad from Kevin Hearn (ʽChristmastimeʼ, with nary a hint at any irony behind the sentimentalism). Naturally, the restrictiveness of the topic is an obstacle to any of these songs being masterpieces, but there is plenty of original songwriting, enough for all the regular fans to sit up and take notice.

Second, the choice of covers is certainly not all that predictable. There is not a lot of traditional Christmas chestnuts, and those that they do feel obliged to include are usually turned on their heads: ʽJingle Bellsʼ, for instance, consists of a hyper-slow «introspective» part and an absurdly sped-up «village idiot» section. Themes for ʽO Holy Nightʼ and ʽRudolphʼ are given over to organs and drum machines, stripped of vocals and made to run exactly one minute each. And ʽCarol Of The Bellsʼ features a spooky electronic chimes arrangement that could just as well be suited for the needs of Walpurgis Night, if necessary.

In addition, there are also takes on more recent Christmasy material — for instance, yet another one-minute instrumental electronic deconstruction deals with Paul McCartney's ʽWonderful Christmastimeʼ (serves it well, since it is arguably one of the worst songs the man has ever writ­ten), and then they run through a superficially-passionate take on Bob Geldof's Live AID monster, ʽDo They Know It's Christmas?ʼ — actually, the song sounds much better without all the Band Aid pathos of the original. Well, seems natural: if we are going to continue the lovely tradition of releasing Christmas albums long after the whole world has converted to Islam, atheism, or pasta­farianism, it does make sense to update the classic repertoire of ʽI'll Be Home For Christmasʼ, ʽHave Yourself A Merry Little Christmasʼ, etc., from time to time, even if we have to do it with bad McCartney tunes and Live Aid anthems.

In order to further commemorate their own legacy and assure the fans of Judaeic faith equal rights and privileges, the Ladies also quickly run through several jiggly Hanukkah tunes (ʽI Have A Little Dreidelʼ is worth getting to know if you never had any earlier pretext to get to know it — as a cultural bonus, you get to learn what a dreidel is), and, along the way, martyrize ʽDeck The Hallsʼ as ʽDeck The Stillsʼ by chanting ʽCrosby Stills Nash & Young!ʼ instead of the original words (it's funny for the first time, and then I just skip the track on subsequent listens).

The whole ravage ends with a straightface, no-bull finale of ʽAuld Lang Syneʼ, left holy and in­tact either because they have no courage to desecrate this one, or because something had to be left intact just for the sake of adding more colors to the record. Well, it's... ʽAuld Lang Syneʼ, it's hard to spoil it anyway. In short, this is a curious, often bizarre twist on yer average Christmas album, which is sort of what we'd expect in general from the Ladies. Whether it helps or not to add a special twist on your actual Christmas (or Hanukkah, for that matter) is up to you to decide — personally, I have never once in my life wilfully listened to a «Christmas album» on an actual Christmas or New Year, so I have no opinion on this situation.

For the record, it must be added that Page would later pretty much disown the record; that not a single track here was recorded by the band naked in the studio; and that ʽGreen Christmasʼ was originally recorded way back in 2000 for Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas, a movie starring Jim Carrey who also sang ʽYou're A Mean One, Mr. Grinchʼ, a song covered by many artists including Aimee Mann, who put it on her own Christmas album that would be recorded two years after Barenaked After The Holidays and would be a better album because Aimee Mann is (in my humble opinion) a better artist. See, that's why I hate trivia — when they're all piled up and disconnected, they look dumb, but once you try to chain them together, you find out that it's almost impossible to stop.


Check "Barenaked For The Holidays" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Barenaked For The Holidays" (MP3) on Amazon

3 comments:

  1. I've never bothered much with this one. Not much about Christmas albums really make me want to plop down my cash even if I like the band a lot.
    The songs are good but it's not like I'm ever going to play them more than a couple times aside from a few of the bigger standouts. I like "Elf's Lament" quite a bit for instance, but it's hardly a track I'd ever think of if I were to name my favourite BNL songs.

    Not only did Page pretty much disown this record but this marks the point where he begins to check out of the band altogether. Starting with this album Page no longer would be the lead vocalist on the majority of the band's material. He would get mild revenge with the fun little As You Like It project they would do, which was almost entirely Page-led, but most people don't even know that exists so it's still a loss for him.
    Then again it's hard to say whether or not that development was a good thing or a bad thing for the band. Page didn't want to do the children's album either and that record turned out great. But the albums he was on board for during this period are the Are Me/n albums, and those stunk to high heaven. But then Page left and his solo album was great and BNL without him started sucking again. It's kinda hard to pinpoint where exactly the balance lies with these guys.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Outside of The Ventures, Phil Spector's and John Fahey's Christmas albums there's not a lot of must haves. Maybe Gary Hoey's "Complete Collection" and a handful of others might be included, certainly not this one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like the first Elvis one, as well as Jethro Tull's one.

      Delete