Christmas is just around the corner, and with it will come the fateful holiday party where someone (hopefully not you) drinks too much and tells off a roomful of sullen friends and relations.
Far from a time of universal peace and joy, the winter holidays can be fraught with familial resentment and animosity. This makes the season a perfect time to dust off your old punk rock records. We know holiday prep is major drain on time, so as our gift to you, we've assembled a playlist of our 10 favorite Christmas punk songs. Now you should have plenty of time to write insincere cards to people you see once a year.
10. The Ramones, “Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight Tonight)”
We had no idea Howard Stern sang in one of those bands that the guys at our college radio station never shut up about. Howard, you're so versatile! Witty lyrics, too.
9. The Dickies, “Silent Night”
We knew a Mormon kid in high school whose parents only let him keep his Dickies records because he lied and said the band is named after the Dickies brand of work pants, not penises. We always wondered if The Dickies ever got into a legal battle over their name with that other punk band, The Dicks. It would have made for a great episode of the People's Court. Next up: “The Dickies versus The Dicks.”
8. The Damned, “There Ain't No Sanity Clause”
The Damned is hailed as one of the first and finest Goth bands, a distinction that only means something if you are in The Damned or care about men who voluntarily wear eyeliner. The Damned has had so many lineup changes that we're pretty sure the guy who fixes our photocopier played with them in the 1990s (evidence: he has a British accent and wears eyeliner and when he doesn't drink coffee, he looks ashen, like a corpse). We therefore consider ourselves members of the extended Damned family. For the record, we also care about men who wear eyeliner, deeply so.
7. Pansy Division, “Homo Christmas”
Pansy Division was a C+ pop punk band whose being openly gay scored them extra press at a time when every third band signed to a major label was pop punk. “Homo Christmas” is their lighthearted send-up of the holiday.
6. Sloppy Seconds, “Hooray For Santa Claus”
Sloppy Seconds are the unrecognized founding fathers of American over-sharing. If these guys wrote self-aware TV scripts rather than three-minute songs, they would be lionized right alongside Lena Dunham for their portrayal of the slothful lives of young, inessential Americans. We cannot travel back in time and give the band a tip about how their ideas would make for great television, but we can at least include their Christmas song on this list.
5. Bad Religion, “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing”
Bad Religion is a band of highly educated, articulate men in their fifties who for the last 30 years have insisted they are true punks and that their style of middle-class respectability can co-exist with their animosity toward middle-class respectability. Bad Religion is so pure in their aesthetic that they have played the same chord progression for 30 years, albeit with subtle shifts to its rhythm, which is achieved by hiring an entirely new drummer on every other record.
Let us be clear — you do not mess with Bad Religion. If you taunt Bad Religion, all six of them will pile into singer Greg Graffin's SUV and park outside your bedroom window. The entirety of Bad Religion will step out of Greg's SUV and cross their arms in the same intimidating manner they do on their album covers. Bad Religion will then shout, in unison so as to emasculate you, “Come on outside, tough guy! We're Bad Religion and we're standing on your lawn!”
4. Stiff Little Fingers, “White Christmas”
SLF is almost too good a band to play Christmas music, but they did, and the proof is in the video above.
3. The Vandals, “Oi to the World”
Like the guys in Bad Religion, these Huntington Beach punk veterans embodied the spirit of Christmas and suburban overcompensation by recording not just one Christmas song but an entire album's worth. We recommend “Christmas Time for my Penis,” another example of their deft lyrical elegance. We also recommend seeing them live because Josh Freese is an astounding drummer.
2. Fear, “Fuck Christmas”
Fear vocalist Lee Ving is a man who can crash house parties and drink for free because he looks like someone who tucks weapons into the lining of his leather jacket. As a paragon of pre-sensitivity-training America, Ving always made his attitude towards the rest of the world explicit via lyrics and song titles such as “I Don't Care About You.” When Guns N' Roses recorded that tune on their Spaghetti Incident record, Fear became a band everyone cited as an influence, but whom few people bothered to see once Ving reassembled the group. Maybe that's why Ving is cranky enough to write a song called “Fuck Christmas.” Or maybe it's because he grew up in Philadelphia. We like Christmas because gifts are fantastic, but we like Lee Ving better.
Yet this is only our second favorite punk Christmas song. How come? Read on…
1. Tiny Tim, “Santa Claus Has Got the AIDS This Year”
Wait, Tiny Tim is “punk?” Sure he is, if you guys want to get academic. He self-recorded the bulk of his material, he spent decades playing in small clubs, and, much like punk royalty The Misfits, he wore frightening make-up inspired by classic horror films. Wait, what's that? He wasn't wearing makeup at all? Sorry, Tiny Tim!
We call Tiny Tim punk because he was unapologetic in his derangement and cared little for what anyone thought of his collection of ukuleles, his preschooler falsetto, his garishly super-sized chin, and his piercing, prison-sexy eyes. He gave so much to his music that he died after collapsing on stage. He's punk, damn it, and we don't care if you've been to 1,400 shows and first “got into” the music when you were eight years old (liar). We ran Tiny Tim's criteria through the U.S. Department of Music Credibility database and he came back with a 92 percent Punk Score. As for the song: it's simple, it's offensive, it's clearly not the work of a Thinking Man, but it's as pure an effort at self-expression as anything those insecure bozos in Bad Religion have created.
Are all you amateur musicologists ready to tell us off yet? Are you outraged that we dare include this Tiny Tim oddball in the same list with your precious Vandals and your beloved Greg Graffin? Jeez, lighten up! It's Christmas time.