These days whenever Christmas comes along we get the same old songs, whether it is a genuine classic or just a dull re-hash of something we have heard time and time again. It isn’t often that I come across something that I genuinely get excited about in terms of Christmas music, well not these days anyway. It was a great day for me therefore when I was introduced to “Merry Christmas” from The Sonics, The Wailers and the Galaxies.
What makes this album so special for me is the different approach it takes towards Christmas, it isn’t your traditional Christmas album, it wont necessarily give you that party feeling that you would get from Mariah Carey or WHAM, where even their “sad” songs still have a feeling of emotional redemption whether it be metaphorical or just musically. This album doesn’t have this at all, it truly represents the freaks of the season where, despite all the merriness and joy that is being spread there is still a part of you that feels blue or even just plain numb.
The Sonics, The Wailers and The Galaxies are all 60’s American garage bands who were signed to the legendary Etiquette records indie label based in Tacoma. Set up originally by members of the Wailers, they truly became an integral part of the Seattle music scene that exists today until ultimately being swept aside by commercial enterprise after achieving admirable success both state-wide and nationally.
It is incredible therefore, that we still have access to this material as rare as it may be to come by in its original vinyl form. It is not a well known record, I only know a handful of people who seem to know about this beauty and I really want that to change.
Being 10 tracks long with 3 or 4 contributions from each band, the majority of the material is original (there are a couple of great covers on there – look out for the Village idiot), even the covers have a certain something that you don’t seem to be able to get anywhere else. A Sinicism or an underlying layer of desperation highlighting the stipulation that it is indeed the season to be jolly coupled with the materialist values that can go hand in hand with it all. “Christmas Spirit” is the perfect example here, even without the lyrics, it is all in the vocals, and the snide and sarcastic delivery that beautifully contradicts everything he says.
There are some stand out tracks on there for each band, saying that as they each only put through a couple of songs the material is consistently strong and I don’t think there is a track I don’t love, The Wailers “She’s Coming Home” and “Maybe this year” are definitely my favourites though, they are genuinely great songs that I will listen to all through the year, not just for Christmas. Sombre and sweet they both convey a loneliness that a lot of people can relate to this time of year, and I think that is what I like about them the most, they are beautifully yet brutally honest.
The album is available to download here.