Last year, Phoenix New Times shared a little dash of holiday joy with our “12 Days of Christmas” coverage. It was a chance to get to know some Valley stakeholders while sharing in the true gift of beloved Xmas music. That, and most folks clearly have a cutesy story about “Jingle Bells.”
Only this year isn’t nearly as joyous and festive, and as we continue to isolate through the season, nobody’s in the mood for caroling. So we’re instead presenting a different kind of celebration: the season’s most harsh and/or angriest tunes. Whether they’re punching carolers, telling Santa to kick rocks, or partying with Satan, these songs are a way to honor the spirit of the holiday as it feels most appropriate to our collective 2020.
Merry Christmas and a big ol’ bah humbug to you and yours.
James Chance, ‘Christmas With Satan’
A Christmas ballad should be like a loved one’s warm embrace, or maybe even a extra warm mug of cocoa. In the case of “Christmas with Satan,” it’s more akin to a night of drinking gasoline in some dystopian nightclub. The track is actually the brain-child of “no wave” saxophonist James Chance, and tells the story of a man who commits suicide to go and party with Beelzebub himself. It ain’t exactly “Jingle Bells,” but it does feature strands of other beloved Christmas carols woven into the song itself. That makes this song akin to a snarling goth kid having to celebrate their holiday with a smiling, sweater-clad family.
Blink-182, ‘I Won’t Be Home for Christmas’
We’ve all been tested to some degree or another during Christmastime. Too much ham or wine, mixed with an overabundance of family bonding time, would make anyone want to dole out some la-la-la-lashings. As such, Blink 182’s “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” becomes a form of wish fulfilment, as the narrative funnels all that yuletide rage into smashing the faces’ of irksome carolers. The fact that the man goes to jail should be a form of determent, but instead this high-energy jam only gets better with every irritating interaction. Even if you can’t slap Uncle Bob for burning the turkey, at least there’s always this true classic.
Miles Davis and Bob Dorough, ‘Blue Xmas’
Anger doesn’t always have translate to loud noises and rage-soaked words. When asked to come up with a touching ballad for the season, jazz legend Miles Davis instead teamed with singer-songwriter Bob Dorough for “Blue Xmas,” the musical equivalent of Scrooge flipping off orphans. In true Davis fashion, a lot of the annoyance and negative energy is hidden under a barrage of high-energy jazz improv. But then maybe that’s the point: the sorrow of the season wrapped in a more robust package of lively jazz. Sort of like having to hide your disdain for the eight-pack of socks you got for a second straight Christmas.
King Diamond, ‘No Presents for Christmas’
On the surface, this King Diamond song is another high-voltage slice of ’80s metal goodness. Just don’t be fooled by all those machine gun-style drums and sweltering guitar licks —- this is a hugely depressing song. As if “no presents” weren’t bad enough, there’s lines about how Tom and Jerry “don’t give a damn” and how “Donald Duck is still in bed.” It’s the weirdest and most unsettling Christmas tune ever, a real bummer that all that the layers of heavy noise worsen to the nth degree. The last line (“I’m dreaming of a white… Sabbath…”) is just the icing on this totally bonkers gingerbread house from hell.
Fear, ‘Fuck Christmas’
It’s easy to see why a song called “Fuck Christmas” should be disqualified for its sheer lack of nuance or subtlety. Add in the fact that most of this 69-second song is the band repeating the title ad nauseam. What makes this song a standout, though, is that it’s one of the first songs released by this seminal Los Angeles outfit, and as such, it feels somehow special. As if hating Christmas is somehow an integral part of Fear’s shared DNA, more so than even, say, battling racism or police brutality. Forget Christmas; God bless Fear.
Type O Negative, ‘Red Water (Christmas Mourning)’
Sometimes your average “angry” Christmas song deals in the abstract or overly fictional. But with “Red Water (Christmas Mourning),” Type O Negative frontman Peter Steele addresses his own grief over deceased loved ones. Over a harrowing soundscape (complete with samples from other songs like “Carol of the Bells”), Steele details his reliance on regular drinking (the titular red water) and how joyous things like mistletoe only remind him of what’s been lost. It’s a song rife with depression and anger, and that kind of pain is something the average listener can relate to. It ain’t fun, but bonding over sheer misery is still worthy of celebration.
Eazy-E, ‘Merry Muthafuckin’ X-Mas’
Not every angry song has to be about condemning the holiday season. In fact, Eazy-E, a godfather of early West Coast gangsta rap, sounds positively joyful as he talks about riding around in his “candy red top 6-4” and asking for a CD player. Yes, there’s also talk about sexual acts being likened to Santa coming down the chimney, and possibly even punching people. But that’s just Eazy-E being himself, taking something as pure as a Christmas carol and adding in his own level of depravity and unique color. You wouldn’t want to sing this at Grandma’s house, but even something dark and dirty can still be a little wholesome.
DJ Snake (feat. Alesia), ‘Bird Machine (Jingle Bells Edition)’
There’s actually nothing inherently angry to this song. Instead, it’s a yuletide remix of DJ Snake’s surprisingly catchy electronic anthem “Bird Machine,” complete with appropriately festive chimes and bells plucked from that holiday classic “Jingle Bells.” No, the anger part comes as you either 1. hate this so much that it ruins Christmas entirely or 2. you fall prey to the cheesy vibes and hum this tune through New Year’s Day. Or maybe you experience some totally awful combination of the two. Either way, it’s going to affect your holiday celebrations more than all the brandy-laden eggnog in the world.