What’s the best bit about Christmas? All the bloody great music, of course! And while you might think that the creation of Christmas music was firmly the preserve of 70s rock stars and 80s pop idols, you’d be wrong. Bands from all corners of rock’s globe are still at it. Here, we listen to every single piece of Christmas music that made it into our inboxes this festive season – including singles, albums and EPs – and rank it all from worst to best.
27) Blackmore’s Night - Winter Carols
Ritchie Blackmore is a legend. He has done many good things for rock music. This is not one of them.
In this reissued album, originally released in 2006 but tarted up a bit here, Blackmore taps into his preoccupation with medieval instrumentation to bring you pastoral, olde-world versions of his “favourite Christmas songs of the past 400 years”. It includes his Christmas single Wish You Were Here. We’ll spare you a description of any more depth or substance.
Sure enough, it’s sort of Christmassy. But it’s also awful. Avoid.
26) REO Speedwagon - Not So Silent Night: Christmas With REO Speedwagon
Let’s look at the title for a second. Not So Silent Night. So we’re gonna be rocking the fuck out with the Speedwagon guys, right?!
25) The Kickback - Christmas Lights
This is kind of confusing, because it’s a cover, but it’s a cover of massively unknown Christmas song. It’s a perfectly nice cover of a massively unknown Christmas song, but if you’re going to cover, you gotta cover big. Anyway, we’re not judging this music on whether it’s nice or not. This is a Christmas list, and Christmassy this ain’t.
24) Phoebe Bridgers - Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
We here at TeamRock firmly believe that classic Christmas songs being reimagined as wispy, John Lewis-appropriate festivals of all that is whimsical and twee is one of the worst festive phenomenons to ever have blighted the holiday season, so you can probably imagine our thoughts on this one. It’s got some nice slide guitar which saves it from being a complete washout, and it is technically quite Christmassy, but that’s about as far as it goes with this one.
23) Neal Schon - Ave Maria EP
Was Neal Schon’s guitar-laden take on Ave Maria something we all needed to hear in 2017? Judge for yourselves. It’s a pleasant enough take on the old Schubert classic, but it’s not very Christmassy at all. The same can be said for the rest of this EP. Now we think about it, we’re not even sure it’s even meant to be a Christmas album at all. Oh well, the guitar playing really is very nice, though.
22) Jess & The Bandits - Always Christmas Eve
This is actually pretty okay – a mix of Christmas standards jazzed up with a country twang thrown in among original songs, with frontwoman Jess reaching out to a number of friends from the UK country scene for collaborations. It veers strongly into overly-schmaltzy territory a number of times (probably just skip the second track Wrapped In Red if that ain’t your bag), but their take on Baby, It’s Cold Outside is a bit of fun, at least.
21) Holy Moly & The Crackers - Punk Drunk X-Mas Eve
Here’s another Christmas song that doesn’t sound remotely Christmassy. Play this if you want to prove to people at the work Christmas do that you have a cool and esoteric taste in music, but don’t expect them to derive much Christmas joy from it.
20) The 69 Eyes - Christmas In New York City
This is another one for the Christmas goths among us. This spooky slice of Christmas dark rock has more than a hint of Danzig to it, and should appease even the gloomiest of horror punks this festive season. It’s got jingle bells, too.
19) August Burns Red - Last Christmas
We’re guessing it was the untimely passing of George Michael which has spurred this year’s flurry of Wham covers, but Good Charlotte’s take on Last Christmas comes up against some stiff competition here, with this melodic metalcore reimagining of the late George Michael’s festive hit. The weird thing about this cover is that there’s no singing, which is a bit half measures if you ask us. Still, there’s some sleigh bells at the end, which is always nice.
18) Sub-Radio - Holiday Hangover
Here’s a list of things Christmas is about: presents, turkeys, arguments with relatives, covers of Christmas songs which have been become canon since the 70s. Here’s a list of things Christmas is not about: original material. Sub-Radio just about save themselves from kicking off their Christmas EP with an original track (which, FYI, is not at all Christmassy) by sticking covers of what are, apparently, two modern Christmas classics (Fall Out Boy’s Yule Shoot Your Eye Out and Ariana Grande’s Santa Tell Me) at the end. On the whole, this album’s Christmas factor is incredibly low, but it might do when the endless repeats of Maria Carey really start to do your head in.
17) Marching Church - Christmas On Earth
This is basically the sound of what would happen if Conor Oberst had ever attempted a Christmas single. It’s maudlin, full of sad brass and pretty irresistible in that ‘I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself this Christmas’ way.
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16) Starkill - All I Want For Christmas Is You
This is fucking great. All bands should be forced to cover All I Want For Christmas Is You at least once in their career, until we get to the point where there are enough versions of it for none of us to have to listen to anything else throughout the whole of December, because December is for Christmas music, and this is the greatest Christmas song of them all. It’s a melodic metal version we have here, by the way.
15) Spook School - Someone To Spend Christmas With
Let’s be honest, this song isn’t Christmassy in the slightest. Where are the jingling sleigh bells? The rollicking video featuring band members getting jolly around a tree? The stirring choirs kicking in for a key change chorus? It is, on the face of it, just another indie rock song, which in terms of its Christmas factor is very disappointing indeed.
However, what saves it from complete Christmas wipeout is the fact it’s accompanied by the This Is What I Now Call Sexy 2018 calendar which features “some truly beautiful candid shots of drummer Niall McCamley” looking very sexy and Christmassy indeed, a taster of which you can see below. So there you go.
14) Good Charlotte - A GC Christmas, Pt. 1
When you were thinking about what you wanted for Christmas this year, chances are “Good Charlotte covering Wham’s festive classic Last Christmas” wasn’t particularly high on your list. Well, us neither, but it’s the gift the universe wanted us to have, so here we are.
It’s joyful enough, in its way, vaguely reminiscent as it is of you and your siblings clambering onto Singstar: Christmas Rocks! edition after a few too many Baileys and giving it your absolute best bash. Oh, there’s also two original Good Charlotte Christmas songs on the EP, which include enough references to bells and snow and angels and other general Christmas stuff to just about pass muster. Endearing, enjoyable, not wildly groundbreaking – but who wants their ground broken at Christmas time, anyway?
13) Nelson Can - On Christmas Night
Okay, so this one took us a few listens, but now we’re sold. It’s not an instant banger, but it is a nice little slow-burner replete with worthy, Christmassy lyrics – and they do, to be fair, make a bit of effort with adding a few bells here and there. It’s kind of like when 80s-version Sinead O’Connor would tackle something like Silent Night and after being inititally dismissive it became your low-key Christmas favourite. Yeah, this is like that. But in 2017.
12) Catholic Action - No Angels
If you’ve ever found yourself annoyed at how bloody unsexy Christmas can be, well, first of all you’re not doing Christmas right, and second, this is the festive song for you. A tongue-in-cheek slice of powerful indie pop which sets its sights on the fact ‘You can’t have sex at Christmas, you can’t make love or screw’, the thoughtful addition of a few jingle bells makes this a fine festive cut.
11) Butch Walker - Over The Holidays And Under The Influence
Ex-SouthGang man offers a woozy, nostalgic view on some of Christmas’ most defining classic cuts in what he calls his “accidental” Christmas record. There are rambunctious singalong choruses in Winter Wonderland, a tropical take on Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer and surf-rock Feliz Navidad, all propped up by spontaneous inter-track Christmas bants. They were all pissed when they recorded it, so that explains that.
10) Rattlebag - A Rattlebag Christmas
Christmas carols reimagined as oi punk songs? It works better than it sounds like it should. Whether Jingle Bells or the gleefully nasty version of Angels We Have Heard On High, we guarantee you’ll want to include at least one of these in that Christmas playlist you’re working on.
9) Creeper - Fairytale Of New York
If you’re going to tackle a classic, you’re going to have to do a bloody good job of it to keep people happy. For many punks and rockers of a certain age, The Pogues’ Fairytale Of New York is about as close as they get to a religious experience each Christmas, so Creeper had a challenge on their hands when it came to appeasing the masses with this cover. To be fair, they didn’t do a bad job. It’s pretty true to the original in many respects, with Hannah Greenwood’s vocal turn far outstripping Will Gould’s, just as Kirsty McColl did with Shane MacGowan in the original. It works. Good job, guys.
8) Kat Meoz - Christmas In Hollywood
Hang on – we take back everything we said about original Christmas songs, because this is actually pretty good. Sleazy, fuzzy, upbeat alt.rock with so many references to Christmas it becomes a Christmas song without sounding remotely Christmassy. Also comes with a video which shows Meoz adequately embarrassing herself dressed up as a lovely Christmas tree walking the streets of Hollywood, which is always welcome. Props for the line ‘I hear it’s true that Santa likes a good ride’.
7) Tarja - From Spirits And Ghosts (Score For A Dark Christmas)
Find us someone who claims you can’t be a goth and enjoy Christmas and we shall find you a liar. Ex-Nightwish singer Tarja has played a blinder here by re-recording a bunch of classic Christmas carols and traditional songs with a super-spooky gothic edge, in an album she calls “Christmas music for those that do not find joy in the blinking lights and the jingle bells”. Jeez. Didn’t think Deck The Halls could sound ominous and foreboding? Think again! It’s as dramatic and epic as all that sounds, but even better, it’s likely to get the approval of your grandma to boot because opera, innit. Christmas fun for all the family!
6) Big Big Train - Merry Christmas
A proper Christmas single with all the cliches thrown at it: sleigh bells, a choir of pre-pubescent boys, and England’s greatest modern-day Prog act singing from within the depths of a snow globe. The video also features actor Mark Benton, star of Northern Lights and Strictly Come Dancing, whose ecstatic face can be seen if you closely examine the audience photo that features on BBT’s live album A Stone’s Throw From The Line. It’s miserable and triumphant at the same time, much like Christmas itself.
5) Various Artists - Bloodshot Records’ 13 Days Of Xmas
If you know anything about Bloodshot Records you should have a pretty good idea of what this rootsy Christmas compilation is going to sound like. There’s a maudlin cover of O Holy Night by Murder By Death which is absolutely perfect for having a secret Christmas cry into your mulled wine over (come on, we’ve all done it) and a bit of gravelly, vintage R&B-shaped light relief in Barrence Whitfield & The Savages’ Christmas single Papa Barrence’s Christmas. If it’s an introspective Christmas tinged with melancholy you’re after, this is the comp for you.
4) Cheap Trick - Christmas Christmas
If you want anyone to write a new Christmas song, it’s going to be someone who lived and created through the era when all the best songs were written. The Cheap Trick Christmas single, Merry Christmas Darlings, is essentially an amalgamation of all the things that made the classic Christmas rock stompers great, and it comes replete with an album of relatively true to life covers of those exact songs, too. Very enjoyable all round.
3) Hanson - Finally It’s Christmas
Before you go spitting out your sprouts in a fit of shock and rage, yes, we’re talking about THAT Hanson, but it’s cool, they play real instruments and sound like Bruce Springsteen if he’d joined the Beach Boys now. Where does that leave this Christmas song? Well, there’s anthemic, harmony-riddled choruses, manifold references to churchbells ringing, key changes, jingle bells and a wholesome, jolly video. In short, it’s a lot of fucking fun, so leave that cynicism at the door and get involved, you miserable old humbugs.
2) Boy Jumps Ship - All Alone At Christmas
This is more like it! Bells, trees, lights, Christmas jumpers, a Home Alone video homage, riffs AND a bit of festive saxophone make this a Christmas winner on all fronts. A cover of the Darlene Love song which originally appeared on the Home Alone 2 soundtrack (AKA a stone-cold festive classic), it’s made even better by the fact it’s all been done for a worthy cause, with all proceeds going to mental health charity Mind. So go grab a copy and feel warm in the glow of having done a good deed this Christmas.
1) Kim Wilde & Lawnmower Deth - F U Kristmas
If you were to imagine everything you could ever possibly want from a Christmas single, it’d probably involve a legit Christmas celebrity teaming up with a thrash metal band to stage a faux battle between the pros and cons of Christmas, right? Right! Well, you asked and the universe answered, for here we have Kim Wilde, fresh from rockin’ around the Christmas tree, going head to head with Lawnmower Deth in “anti-Christmas” single F U Kristmas. It’s brilliant in every way. Get involved.
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