Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Wretched World Is Run By Ox And Ass (You Heard It Here First!)

I had been toying with a vague plan, where I'd put up a short post for each of the twelve days of Christmas featuring some strange, weird or amusing Christmas song. I didn't want to use anything I'd posted before or anything obvious everyone would already know but, surprisingly, I don't have dozens of bizarre seasonal numbers playing in my head so I knew I'd have to do some homework.

Of course, as soon as I started, the first thing I discovered was that loads of people had had the same idea already. There are plenty of playlists called things like "Rare, Bizarre and Unique Christmas Songs" or just "Weird Christmas Songs" but far from being a help it was a bloody nuisance.

The whole point of doing something like this is to share things I've discovered for myself, not to plagiarize someone else's work, so I fastidiously avoided clicking on any of those compilations. Instead, I spent two or three hours across a couple a days trawling YouTube for likely candidates. Chances are I was just repeating the exact same process as the creators of the lists but the selections would at least be my own and there was always the chance I'd come across something new. 

Newness itself was my original aim. I began by looking for songs that hadn't been uploaded or preferably recorded before this year. That rapidly fell apart for two reasons: I didn't find much from 2021 that did much for me but I did stumble across quite a few intriguing oddities from past years that I hadn't heard.

In the end I decided I'd settle for just that: anything I hadn't heard before, regardless of how old it was or how well-known it seemed to be. I realize I should have heard some of these before - you'd think I'd have noticed Christmas songs by Blondie or Bob Dylan (The lack of links there indicates we'll get to those soon enough.) but I can honestly say I haven't. 

I'm still digging around and it can be heavy going at times. There are an unconscionable number of supposedly humorous seasonal ditties that deserve to remain thoroughly obscure. Surf rock acts and old school country singers seem particularly fond of novelty numbers featuring any combination of grandparents, santas, reindeer and dismemberment but those are nothing to the torrent of infantile smut. It baffles me how so many inept amateurs can believe a few swear words and a bucketful of sexual innuendo will render any holiday situation hilarious.

If you sift the trash with sufficient rigor, however, the occasional gem does shine through, certainly enough to justify a short series. It won't be the "twelve days of Christmas" for the very good reason that the traditional dozen doesn't even begin until Christmas Day itself and by the twenty-seventh I'm sure everyone will have heard all the Christmas songs thay can stomach for another year.

Instead I'm just going to toss up a few tracks as and when it seems appropriate, by which I mean when I haven't got anything much to post about or when I'm pushed for time. Like today! 

I did consider dumping everything I've found in one massive splurge but seriously, who's going to listen to more than two or three demented Christmas tunes in a sitting? Okay, I will, apparently, but other than me? 

And with that  let's have the opening salvo. I'm still looking for more, by the way, and I'm open to suggestions.

This is one of the oddest but also one of the most fascinating I've found so far. The lyrics were generated by the GPT-2 neural net and set to music by a band called The Forever Now. The AI was "trained" by Janelle Shane, who has a book out that I plan on buying as a Christmas present to myself.

It's quite long at around six minutes but I recommend watching to the end. It hits a mesmeric, oddly soothing groove in the final third before crashing to sudden, unsettling coda. If this is what AIs think about Christmas I fear for the singularity.

I feel I should have heard this decades ago but I didn't. I did, however, watch a Netflix documentary recently, called "A Futile and Stupid Gesture", about the two guys who created National Lampoon. It's a little pleased with itself at times but worth a look. They didn't mention this but there's a lot of other stuff like it in the movie.

This gem features Bill Murray on lead vocals (Yes, really.). There's a longer version that doesn't seem to have the same high production values but does have a spoken section featuring Gilda Radner that's worth a listen, too. 

 Speaking of high production values...

Everything I know about KPop could be etched onto the wing of a ladybird  but I'm becoming painfully conscious that's a situation that can't be allowed to stand. I'd estimate a good fifth of all of NME's music coverage that I read these days involves some Korean outfit or other and not just Blackpink or BTS, either. We're long past the point where it can be shrugged off as some kind of fad. If Korea's not the future of pop culture it's one of the futures.

It took me a while to work it out but I think "Christmas EveL" just means "Christmas Eve". I was imagining it meant "Christmas Evil" but that would be a different song altogether. The auto-translated lyrics are illuminating: "My pants are wet to the knee/After a bit , I topple over" is a couplet you wouldn't expect. Good tune, though. Catchy chorus.

That's enough for now. Expect one or two more of these in the run-up to Christmas. Get you in the mood, they will. 

The mood for what, though? Ah, there's a question!

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