REWIND: Pearl Jam, Beck and other minimally objectionable Christmas songs

Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament

Pearl Jam performs at Oracle Arena in Oakland on Nov. 26, 2013. Roman Gokhman/STAFF.

First off, yes, I’m doing the Christmas column nearly a week before Christmas. It’s the last pre-Christmas column. Blame the concept of time.

Anyway, at the risk of going full Grinch on you, I can’t stand Christmas music. I also can’t stand Christmas movies. The prevailing attitude toward Christmas-themed entertainment is apparently that the theme itself will sell it so they don’t have to worry about things like, you know, quality. Because they’re almost all garbage.

I might have just gone full Grinch.

Fortunately for the sake of this column, there are some bands I like that excreted Christmas-themed cash grabs of songs, so I’m listing to those. Yes, they’re mostly ’90s bands, shut up.

Bad Religion — “O Come All Ye Faithful”

OK, confession time. I’m including this mostly because I find it hilarious that a band called Bad Religion, whose logo is a cross behind a circle and slash, released a Christmas album. I love Bad Religion and I love Greg Graffin so I say this with all due respect: Really, dudes? Really?

Anyway, they’re excellent musicians so they can make even a tired standard covered by literally every band and choir sound pretty decent. It’s still a cop-out though. Write new songs!

Pearl Jam — “Let Me Sleep (It’s Christmas Time)”

Pearl Jam released Christmas singles to its fan club for years in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The most famous of those is their cover of Wayne Cochran’s “Last Kiss,” which seems pretty dark to be a Christmas song. It’s a dead teenager song after all. When I think Christmas I don’t really think a high school kid’s boyfriend or girlfriend dying horribly in their arms, usually in a car accident of some sort. Well, I guess to be fair, most Christmas music is like a car accident.

Anyway, some of Pearl Jam’s Christmas singles are actual Christmas songs, and this is one of them. And Pearl Jam in 1991 was was good enough that even its Christmas songs are listenable. That’s is all anyone can ask for.

Lemmy Kilmister, Billy Gibbons and Dave Grohl — “Run Rudolph Run”

There was an entire metal Christmas album back in 2008, with the performers being mostl yrock legends. Anything off it could have gone here. But one, obviously, stands out above.

ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, legendarily good dude Dave Grohl and best of humanity Lemmy from Motörhead collaborated on a song! And not just in my dreams! So even though it’s a Christmas song covered on more than 40 albums by everyone from Billy Ray Cyrus to Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, it’s still good!

Lemmy is the absolute best.

Local H — “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

If anything, you know Local H from its biggest hit, “Bound for the Floor” from 1996. That may just be me, because I still live in the ’90s. And I guarantee you’ve never seen 1995 movie “Gravesend” because even I’ve never seen it, and obscure stuff from the ’90s is my entire MO.

Local H covered a Christmas song for “Gravesend,” and, without changing the lyrics or the melody, the band make it downright sinister. Telling someone to have a merry little Christmas suddenly sounds like a threat. And I respect that. More Christmas music should be a threat.

Beck — “The Little Drum Machine Boy”

This is not actually a Christmas song. It’s holiday robot funk. It’s Odelay-era Beck being profoundly weird for no reason. It’s off a compilation of Christmas music but, come on, it’s about anything exactly as much as “Where It’s At” is. Because, back in the ’90s, before he got all pretentious, Beck was extremely committed to not actually being about anything. It was a better Beck.

And thus concludes my spelunking adventure into the holiday music morass. To all of you who made it this far, happy Hanukkah, happy winter solstice, happy Kwanzaa, a solemn Zartosht No-Diso, happy Ōmisoka, happy holidays, and, unless you were upset by any of the things I just said, merry Christmas.

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at

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