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Meta Four

Various artists: Happy Christmas, Vol. 2

Listen at grooveshark

Yes, the first Happy Christmas compilation sold well enough that Tooth & Nail decided to put out a second the following year. SPOILERS: So far, they're up to Happy Christmas Vol 5, which just came out this year.

So is it an Even Better Sequel? Sequelitis? More of the same? Less of the same? More of less?

Let's listen and find out.

MxPx — "Christmas Day" Nothing says Christmas like generic pop-punk. It's listenable.

Haha, I must totally be coming across as some jerk who doesn't like punk.

Sixpence None the Richer — "You're a Mean One, Mr Grinch" Heck yes. Leigh Nash is the exact opposite of whoever it was that sang the original version of this song. But aside from that bit of humor, her voice is really nice, and Matt Slocum's instrumental arrangements are darn near perfect.

All Star United — "I Wish It Would Be Christmas Everyday" This is yandere converted into musical form. Listen closely to the beginning. About ten seconds in, someone shouts "I'm so happy!" But he sounds like he's in pain. That's you're warning to stop listening while you still can. In this song lies madness.

And the song wastes no time getting weird:
When the snowman brings the snow
well he just might like to know
he put a great big smile on somebody's face!
On first listen, nothing seems terribly off about these lyrics. It's only when you really think about them that you realize how off they are. Here, the singer's reference to "the snowman bring[ing] the snow" shows that he either doesn't understand the cause-effect relationship between snowfall and snowmen, or he's gotten Jack Frost and the common snow man mixed up.

Don't you lock the doors
you know that sweet Santa Claus is on his way
But, Santa comes down chimneys; whether the door is locked or not won't help or hinder him in the slightest.

When you're skating in the park
and the storm clouds paint it dark
then your rosy cheeks are gonna light the merry way!
Normally, I would chalk this sort of overly-literal interpretation of Luminescent Blush up to artistic license, but the rest of the song makes me wonder if that's really what's happening here.

Now the frosticles appear
and they're frozen up my ears,
so we lie by the fire till the heat simply melts them all away!
Frosticles? Seriously? The heck is a frosticle? I can get them frozen to my ears during a simple skating excursion?

So when Santa brings that sleigh
all along the Milky Way\
Wait. Santa flying through space? It's all starting to make sense now. Clearly, Wizzard (the band that originally wrote this tune) were actually aliens. This song is their best impersonation of that art form the native Earthlings called a "Christmas Song"; considering that they lacked our historical context, it makes sense their ersatz carol is going to feel a little off.

I'll sign my name in the rooftop in the snow and he may decide to stay!
I would wonder why signing one's own name on the roof would convince Santa to stay—and for that matter, why one would want a fat, magical elf living in one's house, rather than doing his job making toys at the North Pole—but we're dealing with aliens here, whose psychology may very well be incomprehensible to human minds. Clearly, we should pursue these matters no further, lest we be driven mad as All Star United clearly were.

Still, a good song.

Plankeye — "Jesu Bambino (The Infant Child)" Oh, that piano is lovely, this is going to be a pleasant DOW! DOW DOW! DOW DOW! DOW DOW! It's almost like it's rocking my face off, but it's really pleasant about it.

Hangnail — "O Little Town of Bethlehem" Stuff like this is why I don't write off pop-punk completely. A fun take on a good hymn.

Joy Electric — "Lollipop Parade (On Christmas Morn)" More synthpop from this guy. Took me a while to warm up to this song, but it's good.

Flight 180 — "O Come All Ye Faithful" Very yes! Another hymn I like, this time done in ska-punk style with some odd tempo changes. Incidentally, this is the same band as One-Eighty from the first compilation; I believe they changed their name to avoid confusion with some sort of youth ministry somewhere.

Starflyer 59 — "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" Sf59 can make any Christmas song depressing! But in a good way! So of course they're perfectly suited for covering one of the most depressing holiday songs ever.

No, really, I love this band and I love this song.

Back when I was young and stupid, I thought that synth-cello was a real cello.

Viva Voce — "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" Another entry in the tradition of lulling you into a false sense of peace before rocking your face off, but unlike Plankeye, VV isn't half-hearted about it. Kung-Fu Action Jesus is gonna kick Satan's ass—are you comforted and joyful yet?!

The Normals — "Peace Child (O Come Emmanuel)" And now something genuinely pleasant. Took me a while to warm up to this song, too.

Fanmail — "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" I think I heard that this band was started by one of the guys who left Plankeye? Also, one of their albums had cover art by Rob Liefeld. Moving on!

I can't help but wonder if this ending was from the original song or not:
I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus
I didn't know it was daddy in disguise.
What? Seeing daddy, disguised as mommy, kissing Santa is gonna give the kid even more issues.

Norway — "White Christmas" Believe it or not, this intro is actually from the song as originally written by Irving Berlin. It was omitted from most performances, particularly Bing Crosby's iconic one, because that little bit of context made the rest of the song rather more bathetic.

And Auto-Tune what the heck how did I not notice that before this year?

Element — "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" Why are there so few honest-to-goodness rock versions of this song? I swear I've heard enough country and easy-listening pop versions that I wonder if they're actually talking about arranging rocking chairs around said Christmas tree.

Oh, yeah, this version. It's alright.

The Deluxtone Rockets — "Santa Claus is Back in Town" Very yes again! It's an Elvis Presley cover. Also, it has exactly the same guitar riff as Muddy Water's "Mannish Boy".

This particular band only released two albums before vanishing. Their first album was a loud, energetic mix of swing and rockabilly, like a smaller Brian Setzer Orchestra, on steroids. Their second album was straighter rockabilly and blues-rock. This particular track is very interesting because it features the band transitioning between the two, so they're playing blues-rock but they're still backed by their swing horn section.

House of Wires — "Caroling, Caroling" Oh, it's these guys again. Does Ensemble Darkhorse apply to parts of songs? Because those bells in the intro are clearly the best part of the song, and the whole song should have had them.

Lost Dogs — "The Chipmunk Song" This is a cover song, and it's a lot less funny if you're not already familiar with the original:
See, the Lost Dogs don't do a straight version of the song. They update it, to make it relevant to the new music technology and other concerns of 1999. I can't say more, because I don't think I can write anything as funny as the song itself.

And on that note, the album ends. Merry Christmas, and don't get replaced by robots!

If you only listen to one track then you're doing something wrong.