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Birthday Baby Jesus (1996) is the CD reissue of two vinyl LPs released
in 1993 and 1994 by uber indie label Sympathy For The Record Industry
- plus, as the CD booklet states, "some stuff that's new." Captured
at the height of post-modern, alt-rock mania, the Happy
Birthday Baby Jesus bands fairly ooze irony and drip sarcasm. Nary a
single cut has a sincerely festive perspective on the high Christian holiday.
That's not necessarily a bad thing - I love a good piss take, and the Christmas holiday is worthy target -
but pointedly out-of-tune caterwauling can wear a bit thin after an hour-and-a-half.
The thing is, I really want to like this album better. I mean, the
song titles alone are pretty entertaining. "Little Drummer Bitch" (Red
Aunts), "Last On Santa's List" (Fireworks), "Christmastime
Is For Sinners" (Mono Men), and especially "Merry Christmas Fuck
You" (Jet Boys) merit a belly laugh before needle ever touches vinyl (or laser strikes aluminum).
But, well, many of those songs aren't very good. Alternative music,
particularly the sort that Sympathy For The Record Industry traffics in, is
often as much
about posture as it is about craft. But, musicality has to count for something,
and much of Happy
Birthday Baby Jesus borders on unlistenable.
said, the highlights are both plentiful and unique - and, strangely enough, tend
to be the songs played well, or enthusiastically, or both. Hands down, the two very best
tracks are El Vez's wacky "Feliz Navi-Nada" (which
fuses Jose Feliciano's hispanic classic to Sex Pistol John Lydon's solo debut, "Public Image")
and the Shitbird's ebullient "Christmas Is A-Comin'" (featuring a young
April March). Beyond that, a number of notable bands (the Muffs, Rocket From The
Crypt, Supersuckers) turn in solid - if less than spectacular - performances.
Those cuts tip the balance for Happy
Birthday Baby Jesus, along with several fine performances from now-forgotten
scenesters. For instance, the Humpers (who???) tear through Chuck Berry's "Run
Rudolph Run" as if their very lives depended on it, tossing off one of the
album's best bits in the process: as they're about to rip into a squalling guitar
solo, the singer gleefully screams, "Check this shit out!" Indeed, it's
moments like that make Happy
Birthday Baby Jesus far more than an artifact of the mordant 90's - if less
than the post-punk Christmas classic I wish it was.
Trivia fans, no doubt, will want to know what vintage LP covers were employed (parodied, ripped off, whatever) by Sympathy for the Record Industry to create the cover art for Happy
Birthday Baby Jesus. The three editions, respectively, are derived from Lawrence Welk's Jingle Bells (Coral, 1957), Christmas With Patti Page (Mercury, 1956), and Christmas With the Mexicali Brass (Crown, 1967). Pooping all over history is just part of the fun, I guess. [top of page]
- Bob Kringle (Creamers,
Brand New Bike (Junkyard Dogs, 1993)
Cancel Christmas (Rocket From The Crypt, 1993)
Christmas Is A-Comin' (May God Bless You) (Shitbirds, 1993)
Christmas Will Be Magic Again (International Language, 1995)
Christmastime Is For Sinners (Mono Men, 1994)
Feliz Navi-Nada (El Vez, 1994)
Frosty The Snowman (Man Or Astroman? 1994)
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday (Devil Dogs, 1993)
Little Drummer Boy (Bomboras, 1994)
Nothing For Me (Muffs, 1994)
Run Rudolph Run (Humpers, 1993)
There's Nothing I Want More For Christmas This Year (Chubbies, 1995)
We'll Call It Christmastime (Supersuckers, 1994)
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Now, you can hear the Christmas music I write about! My Christmas Jukebox is bulging with over 350 tracks, and I'll be adding more rockin' Yule tunes throughout the year. [listen now]