Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-12-13


Wee Hairy Beasties: Holidays Gone Crazy (Wee Beatz, 2008) Kiddie music risks ick even when a curmudgeon like Jon Langford is cleaning the snot off its nose--cf. too much of 2006's Animal Crackers (although not "I'm an A.N.T," sung to the tune of Muddy Waters's "I'm a Man"). My theory is that by the time of this follow-up, he had a kid old enough to ask, "Hey Dad, what's that little arm sticking out of your bellybutton--looks like there's a little man . . ." There is, and he's "not known for his liberal views," unlike Rick Cookin' Sherry, whose interjected P.S.A.'s warn of the dangers of shoveling snow and eating your vegetables--dangers that pale before those of "Dinosaur Christmas": "Wrapped up in her stocking/There's a human for a pet." That Langford--always with the sense of history. A-

Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits (1955-Present) (Rhino, 1989) "Present" was a misrepresentation even in 1989--nine of these 10 songs in 27 minutes were hits between 1956 and 1964, and will presumably mean more to those who were young back then. I was, and I play this record with pleasure every "holiday season," cough cough. Between the mildly defiant rock and roll compromises of Bobby Helms and Brenda Lee, the kiddie novelties proved durable even though you never liked the Chipmunks and never heard of Barry Gordon, the Drifters' alternative "White Christmas," Charles Brown and Elvis Presley sexing it up, and the secular piety of the Harrys Simeon and Belafonte, it's a testimony to pop culture's eternal need to put mildly untraditional twists on the holy holy holy (and why the hell wasn't there a "Twistin' Santa"?). Then there's the capper and chronological ringer, Elmo 'n Patsy's 1983 smash "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"--a cornily deadpan, cheerfully macabre tall tale that will have romantics idealizing the old weird America for as long as Christmas is commercialized. A

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