Holiday Music Quarterly: Santa's Crack
You're not giving any gifts this year because Christmas sucks. You hate the holidays, and you think Christmas music is for emotional wanks who like to freak out on fake sentiment just because they've found an excuse. You hate Christmas music because it's a lie. It neither speaks to nor represents your real, complicated life. So fuck it. Crack open that bottle of Night Train and put on something that's actually going to move you. Here's a list of suggestions for what to listen to over the holidays when the term "marginal" sounds too dignified for what it is you actually are.
The Prozac Suburban MomThat increased dosage is drying you out, and you burst into tears the last time you tried to pop that childproof top off. If Christmas with Julie Andrews is bringing you to the edge of a full-on Farrah Fawcett freak out, you need a real dose of anarchy to shake your shit up. The Sex Pistols are the obvious choice ("Anarchy in the U.K.," et al.), but try the X-Ray Spex's "O Bondage! Up Yours!" for some real transcendent holiday rage. Or better yet, sing Iggy Pop and the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog" at the top of your lungs (and I mean, break some blood vessels, Judith fucking Light) to your sagging, once-handsome, unappreciative pig of a husband who is probably out in the garage "practicing his putt shot" as we speak. Introduce your listless, Marilyn Manson-listening brats to the Boomtown Rats' "I Don't Like Mondays," and in no time at all they'll make Columbine look like a fucking sewing circle. As for the pills, keep poppin', but meanwhile, party for your right to puke.
The Sexually Impotent BoyfriendYour partner is begging for a good, old-fashioned stocking stuffer, but you're merely dangling carrots. The last thing you want to feel, when you're already feeling judged, is alone. Go for the most impotent release of the year 2000: Radiohead's Kid A. Thom Yorke was already one of the most sexually withheld and emotionally addled pop stars prior to this release, but with Kid A, he's not even shooting blanks. Whereas before he was merely impotent, now he's utterly ball-less and pathetic. He writes flaccid songs; he barely sings a coherent note--he's a rambling, emasculated failure, where once there was so much potential. Look at it this way: At least you didn't spend a year in a studio with millions of dollars at your disposal, only to produce this kind of erectile dysfunction. Maybe it doesn't work, but it's still pretty, eh?
The Downsized Dot-CommieThe bottom fell out. Now is the time for you to belatedly discover your class-consciousness, and just in time for the holidays. Sure, you've been raking in the cash like a clean whore in New Orleans, busily buying up the entire Enya and Yanni oeuvre. But now that you've gotten the boot, you might as well find something righteous. The Clash? The MC5? Even Rage Against the Machine would do you some good at a time like this. Before you completely despair and imagine yourself living on the street, taking "Fuck the man!" a bit too literally, why not just go for that great '80s diseased heartland songbook: John Mellencamp (when he was still a Cougar), Springsteen, Petty, Beaver Brown.... Feel the rage and impotence of the blue-collar people you've mocked or ironically borrowed from (bowling?) for years. Feel put upon, misunderstood, and cast aside. Hear the "dead man's town" twang of that real, gritty American guitar sound, and get yourself all fired up to be reborn in the USA. That fire will sustain you until the next gravy train for underdeveloped, overpaid jag-offs pulls into the station.
The Reluctant Planner of a Holiday SuicideYou've been planning that Sylvia Plath bake-off for years, but each year you've been too chickenshit to do it. Sure, you've bought all the Nick Drake reissues, but that's too obvious. (And, yes, we all believe you when you tell us you had heard of him prior to the Volkswagen commercial.) You can spend the remainder of your pointless, sniveling, entirely forgettable life listening to Joy Division, Two Dollar Guitar, and Billie Holiday, but let's face it, you're still here. If you're ever going to get this done properly, you're going to have to go that extra mile. Baste your festering head in the following manner: Stay up all night long on Christmas Eve, listening to ELO's grating, anthemic "Don't Bring Me Down" at full volume, on repeat. If that song doesn't push you over the edge ("Don't bring me doooown") and make you snuff the pilot light ("Whoooosh"); if ELO is incapable of making you want to hang yourself like a Christmas stocking, face it: You want to live, you sad sack of shit.
The Sex AddictYou're on a first-name basis with the entire staff at the Country Doctor. You're a human petri dish, and your friends affectionately refer to you as "Sperm Dump." The life you lead, in most peoples' eyes, is downright unsavory. Your favorite song of the 1980s was Depeche Mode's "I Just Can't Get Enough," but times have changed. Get off your knees, and take a good hard look at your life. You've found something you're truly passionate about (and hopefully good at), so why not make a living at it? For your prostitutorial debut, let's bypass the usuals ("Jane Says," "Walk on the Wild Side," "Fancy") and go for something a bit more upscale, and more importantly, noble. I recommend Marianne Faithfull's version of Kurt Weill and Paul Green's "Mon Ami, My Friend." It's in French and English, which is very romantic. The song is about a Parisian nurse-turned-whore who falls in love with a soldier she spent an hour with and gets all caught up in nostalgia and sentiment over him. Later on, she realizes she needs to get the fuck over it, and she continues whoring in a blaze of glory. ("For life is short and funny, and love may have an end, an hour may be forever, oh mon ami, my friend.") Ah, whoring.
The "Real" SchizophrenicIt's the year 2000, and every soulless asshole with two chords and a fucked-up haircut is a schizophrenic. Hey Fiona Apple, ever shove a wire through the side of your head just to quiet things down a bit? Merry Christmas assface; now shut the fuck up. With so much mass-produced mental illness to choose from, where does a real schizophrenic begin? Kristin Hersh is merely bipolar. The jury's still out on Bill Callahan of Smog. Daniel Johnston's too sad, and Chan Marshall of Cat Power is frightening even by your standards. If you want real schizophrenic commiseration this Christmas, go for broke. Listen to the craziest, most fucked-up pop star known to man: Mariah Carey. (Hey, look at my breasts! Watch out, I'm black! I'm on a motorcycle, hangin' wit' gangstas! Oh, look out, I'm a diva in a swimmin' pool! Whoooo am I, anyway?). Trust me, 10 minutes with Mariah, and you'll feel better about your own life. Even if you're homeless and pregnant with Kurt Cobain's love child.
The College Student Coming Out
The family doesn't know where you've been "hiding the salami" all semester at college, and you're determined to tell them. You've been listening to the newest releases by Ricky Martin, Celine Dion, and Cher, and though you consider all of them masterpieces, they're not exactly doing it for you right now. Consider something a bit different. You could pick up Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade and dwell in some queer and confused punk rock angst, but I'd choose something more conflicted to give you reassurance that you're not the most fucked-up person in the entire universe. I'd go for Eminem, because he's essentially gay: He's over-styled; over-groomed; has bleach-blond hair and girly hoop earrings; he's so gynophobic that he makes Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit look like Susan Faludi; and he's made a life out of the shameless, unending theft of black culture. Girrrrl, that shit is soooo nasty!
The PedophileGo for the obvious: 12-year-old hot-and-horny slut Billy Gilman. He's sassy; he sings in a sultry, womanish voice; and he's the most over-exploited and pornographically obscene child star since Shirley Temple. Not to mention he's got the face of an angel. This NAMBLA-riffic Stranger favorite even has a new promotional phone card out, which you can use to leave him pleading voice-mail messages from every pay-phone you pass on your creepy crawl for Christmas chicken: "I loooves you, Billy. I really, really looooves you."
The Blackout DrinkerAt this stage, Rip Van Drinkle, you make Ronald Reagan look like a doctoral historian. Your life-long anthem has been George Jones' "If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will)," and I'm here to tell you something--that shit is just tired. Get up off those urine-soaked couch cushions and think about the holidays. You can't remember whether or not you've been invited anywhere, but that's doubtful considering the only positive achievement you've made over the last decade is bringing your ex-wife and kids closer together in their unified hatred of you. Wipe the vomit from your eyes and look at the plethora of examples that rock and country have to offer you this holiday season. Sure, there's Jimi, Janis, Elvis, and Merle Haggard, but I offer you this challenge: Take a good, hard look at Shane MacGowan's career from the inception of the Pogues up until now. ("It was Christmas Eeeeeve babe, iiiiiiiiiin the drunk tank....") If you're not in rehab by New Year's, then I suggest you rock on to George Thorogood's "I Drink Alone," and get a new couch, you juicy, nasty bastard.
The Recently DumpedThe rest of the free world porked out on turkey and hot apple pie this past Thanksgiving. You, however, got busy carving your ex-lover's name into your arm for every time you were cheated on in your pathetic sham of a relationship. Baby, you look like Edward Scissorhands had at you. You've been listening to Bright Eyes on repeat for the past 27 days, and you're drinking so much coffee it's left you with more tics than Katharine Hepburn. Not to mention you're perpetually "turtling." Your ex-lover is "getting on with life" by getting it on with half the city, and from the rumors you've been hearing, each and every one is a satisfied customer. You, on the other hand, are reeling. There is only one thing for you to do at this point. Pop in the Magnetic Fields' epic 69 Love Songs. If you make it through all three discs and are still not over your ex, finished with love, and tired of music in general, refer back to "Reluctant Planner of Holiday Suicide."
The Unwed Teenage MotherSure, this should seemingly be your time of year, but wouldn't you know it? Christians only seem to have room for one unwed mother in their shrunken holiday hearts. Everybody played you "Papa Don't Preach" when you were as big as Madonna's Malibu house, but where the hell are they now? Baby, take a break. You deserve it. With public assistance as long gone as your sweet baby's daddy, you've been working shifts that would have Norma Rae shitting her pants. Bring it on home this Christmas with a 12-pack of Lucky Lager and a carton of Old Golds; kick up your feet and put on some AC-fuckin'-DC. Oh, and turn up the volume until you can't hear your parents' precious grandchild screaming anymore.
Jesus ChristI can just see you making that same pouty face Molly Ringwald became famous for in Sixteen Candles: "I can't believe it," she whined. "They fucking forgot my birthday." Well buck up, little savior. It's true, you've been whored out like a Third-World laborer, and wound up with a piss-poor birthday that no one even remembers as being yours. That bastard Santa totally usurped your ass, but take heart: You've had more songs written about you than he has, and you're probably more famous than Hitler. If you go crying in your nog this year, don't resort to bolstering your ego with Christian hymns and spirituals. Instead, listen to Alex Chilton's "Jesus Christ." God, think about it. Alex Chilton actually wrote something reverent, and who is it about? Is it about Santa? No, it's about you, Jesus. If that doesn't make you feel special, then you're the biggest martyr this world has ever known.