Kicking things off today is a new one from the "Ramones of Osaka". That be Shonen Knife, the Japanese Punk Pop trio that recently celebrated 30 years of rocking out loud with a fer real Ramones tribute and cover album, "Osaka Ramones". I'm guessing many of the folks reading hear first heard about Shonen Knife via their 1991 Indie classic "Space Christmas". The band dropped another Christmas track before the new millennium dawned, though "All I Want For Christmas" was more Indie Pop than Indie Punk.
"Sweet Christmas", though, should please all of Shonen Knife's fans. The "A" side version rocks out with all the force of the Punk stars that were the group's inspiration, while the girls offer an acoustic version on the flip that's really, well, sweet. For good measure, Shonen Knife toss in a garage rocking 2 minute rendition of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas". It's all a bit more polished and a bit less bizarre than "Space Christmas", but then only Naoko Yamano remains from the original trio. It's still grade A super fun rock and roll with a J-Pop twist. What more could you want?
The physical single is due December 5 (we've put it under December 6 for The List...just because) and will be limited to 500 copies printed on white vinyl. I haven't found an American vendor selling it, yet, but you can order through Rough Trade and Piccadilly Records to name just two in the UK. And it will probably turn up at Interpunk before too long. For those who have managed to avoid chasing the vinyl dragon, Amazon MP3 will have the digital single on November 29. So you got that going for you. Which is nice.
Tohoshinki's Christmas single is "Winter Rose" and, if you can figure out the Yen to Dollar conversion, will be released November 30. It will be available in both a CD and a CD/DVD version through HMV, CD Japan and YesAsia. The pair has released a 43 second sample on their web site, if you'd like to have a listen. What did I tell you? Air Supply.
Meanwhile, back in the states....
A while back, we mentioned that Cyndi Lauper had recorded a pair of holiday songs for release this year and both "Blue Christmas" and "Home For The Holidays" arrived at Amazon MP3 and iTunes on November 1. Of the two, I like "Blue Christmas" the best. Cyndi, who has been on a Memphis blues kick of late, tackles the song very credibly in a Country/R&B style. At times, she even manages to sound more than a little like Patsy Cline.
Neither track is likely to make anyone forget Cyndi's raucous duet with the Hives from a few years back, "Christmas Duel", but you can download "Blue Christmas" here and here, and "Home For The Holidays" here and here.
I'll tell you what's special about Christmas
Those with hearts and trust will bid a Silent Night (Holy Night)
That is blessed and true to life
And leave the fakes behind
"What's So Special About Christmas?" will be available through CD Baby, iTunes and the other usual digital download suspects. In the meantime, you can get a taste by visiting Gary's SoundCloud page. Whatever you think of the message, the music is pretty catchy.
Not for nothin', I'd much rather tell you about this neat little single from a band that calls itself Tol-Puddle Martyrs. The Australian band, led by Peter Rechter, take their name from a group of English farmers from Tolpuddle who were banished to Australia in 1834 for unionizing, thus becoming (you guessed it) the TolPuddle Martyrs.
If the stories are to be believed, Tol-Puddle Martyrs were an obscure psychedelic garage rock band down under in the mid-60s. They allegedly put out a couple of singles which, though ignored in their own time, became quite sought after in the decades that followed. The music, in any case, is truly awesome...beginning with a collection of those 60s sides released in 2003, "Tol-Puddle Martyrs", and continuing through three albums of newly recorded material--"Psych Out USA", "A Celebrated Man", and "Flying In The Dark".
"Christmas Dreams" doesn't really qualify as either psych or garage, but it does feature British Invasion style guitar and that distinctive 60s era organ. It's also bouncy and poppy and just wonderful fun. All in all, it sounds like a Paul Revere and the Raiders Christmas song--at least as good as anything that was on the Raiders Christmas album, and probably better. If you happen to have amassed a dollar or two in Amazon MP3 credits, this is a good place to use them. If not, then pay the 99 cents. This is a keeper. Also available through CD Baby and iTunes.
Ian Lloyd was the unforgettable vocalist who, with the band Stories, drove "Brother Louie" all the way to number one in 1973. And though Ian never again duplicated the success of "Brother Louie", neither with Stories nor as a solo artist, it's not like he hasn't been making music these last nearly 40 years.
After Stories called it a day, Lloyd recorded several critically successful albums, one of which spawned the hit single "Slip Away" in 1979. Lloyd even made it back to the top ten--as a background singer on Foreigner records like "Cold As Ice" and "Waiting For A Girl Like You". Lloyd is still living in New York and still performing and recording rock n roll, both solo and with the band Social Hero (check out Social Hero's album "The Famous" on Bandcamp--its really killer).
Last year, Lloyd decided to join the Christmas sweepstakes, recording his own holiday vision of snowy streets and peace on Earth. "Everybody's Happy Cause It's Christmas Time" is no "Brother Louie", but it's not such a bad little song, Charlie Brown. Download it at Amazon or Bandcamp.