Various Artists - A Wiretap Records Christmas Compilation (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Various Artists

A Wiretap Records Christmas Compilation (2016)

Wiretap records

I consider myself a bit of a connoisseur of Christmas punk music. so I was really excited to hear about Wiretap Records’ new Christmas compilation album. Besides the fact that it’s 13 tracks of some new punk rock Christmas songs for me to check out, it’s also a compilation of lesser-known bands, so I get to discover some bands I didn’t know about along the way. I think the only artist on here that I had even heard about before I downloaded this compilation was the Dollyrots, so there was plenty to discover in this compilation, and there are a lot of artists from this compilation that I’ll be checking out very soon.

First of all, I know this is a nitpicking complaint, but please allow me to indulge my OCD for a moment: I don’t understand why, on a compilation where about half of the songs are covers, why only three of the songs on the album get labeled as covers in the track listing? Either label them all as covers and give credit to the original artist or don’t label any of them that way. Okay, nitpicking over.

Speaking of covers, I have to say that I don’t really like to listen to compilations like this for the covers. It’s so easy to slap together a quick cover of an old classic, but I’m much more impressed by a band that took the time to write their own Christmas song. On this compilation, the weakest points are some of the covers. Sons of Strangers turn in a phoned-in cover of “Blue Christmas” that’s a total snoozer. Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms do a good cover of Big Star’s “Jesus Christ,” but the somber religious number seems out of place amongst all the debauchery going on elsewhere on the album. The Stragglers’ cover of The Vandals’ “Oi to the World” is competent, but does nothing to put its own spin on the original. Say what you will about No Doubt’s cover of the song, but at least they put their own spin on it.

One of the few exceptions to the “covers bad, originals good” rule on this album is the Dollyrots’ marvelous cover of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.” Taking a Blondie-style approach to the song, they turn it into a cross between pop-punk and a 1950’s girl band song. Refusing to play the song for laughs, the Dollyrots play it with as much earnestness as if it was their own original song. It’s a vast improvement on the cloying original, and also a huge improvement over the time Zebrahead tried to turn the same song into a rap-rock track.

Now, when it comes to original songs, some of which get their first ever release on this compilation, they’re all winners. My Double, My Brother’s “The Days to Be Home” riffs off of the melody of “I Saw Three Ships” but turns it into their own original piece. Avenues’ “This Christmas” is just a perfect pop-punk Christmas carol. Margate’s “Snow Day” is more of a winter song than a Christmas song, but it succeeds in its brief 90 seconds of childhood joy over missing school for a snow day. The Lucky Eejits’ “Santa on 98th” depicts a particularly vulgar Santa Clause bringing drugs to all the junkies for Christmas. But the shining jewel of this album really is Brenna Red’s “Punk Rock Christmas” which blends classic punk references with Christmas joy for an instant classic that I’ll be listening to for years to come.

The best part is that the whole compilation is offered on Bandcamp where you can name your own price. You don’t need to pay anything for the album if you don’t want to, but since the proceeds go to the anti-bullying organization Stomp Out Bullying, I suggest you pay at least $1 for it like I did. For all its flaws, it’s a free album, and it packs in a lot of great tunes for very little money.