I used to love Christmas. It’s an entire day dedicated to giving (and receiving) presents coupled by an almost state-sanctioned obligation to stuff yourself full of sweet, tasty food.
But then I got old (23 is old, I swear). I realised how so much of what we call “Christmas” these days is just regurgitated tropes designed to make people spend as much money as possible. And how even trying to pick up a carton of milk at 9am two days out from Christmas becomes a hellish nightmare of tinsel, screaming babies and Mariah Carey (she knows what she did).
So to soothe my nerves as much as yours, here’s my pick of Christmas songs that won’t make you throw a fruitcake at your speaker system. You’re welcome.
How To Make Gravy – Paul Kelly
I am actually surprised when people tell me they don’t know who Paul Kelly is. With 10 ARIA awards, two songs in the APRA list of “Top 30 best Australian Songs“, and an Australian of the Year nomination, the guy is practically the Bob Dylan of Australia. He also – if this song is anything to go by – can whip up a mean batch of gravy.
Ok so, the song isn’t really about gravy, but a poignant tale about a guy stuck in prison for Christmas (but also gravy).
The song reads like a letter, listing all the things the narrator, Joe, will miss being in prison on December 25. In doing so, “How to Make Gravy” ends up being an extremely Australian recount of the holiday, everything from the heat not stopping the roast dinner, to adding tomato sauce to the gravy mix for “sweetness and tang”.
Fairytale Of New York – The Pogues
If Ireland was a band they would be The Pogues. And if any song best summed up the less illustrious aspects to the festive season it would be “Fairytale of New York”.
Personally I am all for any Christmas song that manages to work in lyrics such as “You’re an old slut on junk” and “You scumbag, you maggot”. Such lyrics have also made me question why my parents thought the song appropriate to play every Christmas. Every. Christmas.
To be honest, you’re going to find “Fairytale of New York” on pretty much every contemporary Christmas song list – it’s that great. The upbeat Celtic twangs literally make it impossible to not feel jolly, even though the lyrics are hardly full of festive cheer. Best enjoyed drinking Irish Whiskey and singing along terribly.
Things I Want – Tenacious D and Sum 41
You’re probably most familiar with Tenacious D from their outstanding 2002 “tribute” to music. Or maybe you know Tenacious D because of their front man, comedian and actor Jack Black. Well anyway, in 2007 the Tenacious D duo teamed up with pop-punk band Sum 41 to make a Christmas song.
Apart from being catchy as all hell (and not in the ‘jingle bells’ way), “Things I Want” features quite possibly the best wish list of all time. On said list is:
- A solid gold Harley with machine guns on the front
- All of the Beatles copyrights
- A bumper pool table and a robot pelican
- A statue of Moby on the surface of the sun
Which makes me think asking for a raincoat this year was a really, really lame request.
That Was The Worst Christmas Ever! – Sufjan Stevens
Who knew that Sufjan Stevens actually put out a Christmas album? Well he did, and this is the best song on it because:
1) We can all relate the title and,
2) It is sad and beautiful at the same time. Just like Christmas.
I’m not really one for Christmas songs that directly reference the holiday. While Stevens’ album is pretty, well, Christmas-y, it still doesn’t shy away from the fact that Christmas is often not as merry as films would have us believe. Families inevitably fight, and for those who are alone or have a mental illness, Christmas can really suck.
Won’t Be Home For Christmas – Blink-182
If you’re at all familiar with Mark, Tom or Travis from Blink-182, you’re not going to at all surprised to learn their Christmas song well and truly takes the piss.
“Won’t Be Home For Christmas” isn’t some saccharine, wistful tale of someone who wishes they were home with their family for Christmas. Oh no. This is about a dude who is so sick of carolers that he threatens them with a baseball bat, and promptly ends up in jail. All to the highly recognisable tongue-in-cheek punk sounds of Blink.
Maybe follow the boys’ advice this year and “Just leave the presents and let me be alone.”