Only exacerbating the problem is the fact that the majority of the music played in December is disproportionately from older eras and traditionally slower and slightly overdramatic, or it’s been modernized into a pristine generic pop song. For those who don’t enjoy that type of music the other eleven months of the year, holiday music’s dedication to annoyingly bright melodies can leave punks celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah feeling musically neglected.
If you typically despise the repetition of the same ten holiday songs, these alternatives might be what you need to tolerate your family and friends’ seasonal cheery obsession.
And for those celebrating Kwanzaa, this list, unfortunately, wasn’t able to give as much attention to alternative-styled Kwanzaa pieces. However, The Houston Press has a series of songs describing the holiday definitely worth checking out
Yidcore – “Punk Rock Chanukah Song”
Yidcore is an ’80s Australian Jewish punk band that experimented with satirical political commentary and ridiculous performance gimmicks, including a rubber chicken named Scrambles. The band released an EP titled The Adam Sandler EP in 2003, fueling a feud that grew out of Sandler’s refusal to let the band perform his own “The Chanukkah song.” Regardless of whatever Sandler intended, Yidcore added their own coarse parody to their EP, which lists Jewish musicians involved in the punk scene instead of generic actors and comedians. The Yidcore music video showcases an authoritative caricature of Adam Sandler along with Santa roasting a reindeer over an open fire.
The Misfits – “Blue Christmas”
The Misfits‘ cover of “Blue Christmas” has become a punk holiday favorite. Their version, with break-neck electric guitar replacing the sleepier acoustic instrumentals of the famous Elvis Presley version, has been cemented firmly in punk’s wheelhouse. And even though the vocals sound possibly more mocking, the song maintains the original’s sorrowful message about a missing holiday love interest, but not to the same whiny extent as Presley’s.
The Vandals – “Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairies”
This instrumental cover of “Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairy” maintains the same brutality from its first distorted chord to its last. The faster tempo and snare-heavy percussive backbone energize the song and give it a much younger, more turbulent character, typical of The Vandals‘ other music as well.
Meshugga Beach Party – “Hot Rod Hanukkah”
Combining surf rock and traditional Jewish melodies, Meshugga Beach Party has demonstrated they’ve truly earned their name. Their experimental cultural collision results in surprisingly lively music. That’s best seen in their holiday album Hot Rod Hanukkah, the title track of which has become a sound-defining and celebratory song in the years since its release in 2011.
My Chemical Romance – “All I Want for Christmas Is You”
Defying all logic Gerard Way‘s voice matches Mariah Carey‘s jarringly well in this cover of “All I Want for Christmas Is You”. Way adds significantly more strain to the My Chemical Romance recording than Carey could convey in her mainstream pop hit. Equally surprising, the post-punk instrumental change, with cymbal fills replacing jingle bells and harsh guitar turbulence in favor of elegant harmonies doesn’t estrange this version from Carey’s model as much as you might expect. MCR ignores the angst characteristic of their other productions in favor of successfully preserving the original’s bright celebratory message. Somehow their rendition, complete with its grungy breakdown and screaming, maintains a similar Christmas spirit to Carey’s.
Blink-182, strangely, has several holiday songs, the vulgar and disruptive “Happy Holidays, You Bastard” spans from Christmas Eve to Labor day and includes a plethora of sexual grievances and embarrassments. Conversely, “Not Another Christmas Song” is a more serious explanation of a personal lack of festive joy and burnout, but still includes some callous comments about prototypical family structures.
Five Star Iris – “The Dreidel Song”
The Five Star Iris version of the classic Hanukkah song “I have a little Dreidel” is a blend of ’60s rock and orthodox folksy melodies that would certainly set a provocative tone for a holiday dinner. “The Dreidel Song” is essentially a supercharged version of the original, with hair-band distinct guitar screaming and a unique bridge that solidifies this version is intended for a specific, less mainstream, audience.
Small Town Titans – “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”
This cover is a ridiculously exceptional hard rock piece. Considering “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is an alternative Christmas favorite, many bands have attempted to blend their aggressive sound with the campy children’s story song, but few have been as successful as Small Town Titans. The vocal range hints at the band’s distinct musical style and the bass-heavy melody gives this cover a more cartoonish villain attitude than even the cinematic original managed.
.45 Graves – “The Snow Miser Song”
Strangely, this surf punk cover of “The Snow Miser Song” almost comes off as a feminist anthem with its harsh siren vocals and decree of being “too much.” Regardless of underlying societal connections, the chaotic instruments and brash tempo both make the .45 Graves cover a fun punk refrain of the original song.
Zusha – “Chanukah is Here”
Zusha, the New York Jewish rock band, released a jazzy, reggae-inspired single titled “Chanukah is Here.” The song reflects the band’s proficiency in combining Hasidic folk influences with modern jazz-rock, and of the songs on this list, is one of the less abrasive and significantly more mainstream.
The Kinks – “Father Christmas”
The Kinks have been ceaselessly appreciated for their dedication to pushing society’s perception of hard rock and paving the way for future explorations into punk. Their sound has a characteristic grain to it while still feeling generally optimistic. Regardless that “Father Christmas” is a narrative departure from their more romance-drug-focused songwriting history, this original embodies that paradoxical combination of bliss and an edge of rebellion. The 2014 Bad Religion cover preserves that same energy and is produced out of admiration for what The Kinks created.
August Burns Red – “Winter Wonderland”
This cover replaces the calm vocals of the original with a merciless nearly two-minute guitar solo. They revive the song with a fast-paced recording that essentially speeds through the intended message. August Burns Red alludes to the original joy of the classic “Winter Wonderland,” but mostly this recording’s appeal lies in its ability to concentrate the attributes of the 1934 composition into a terse punk rendition.
Tragedy – “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah”
The Tragedy cover perfectly blends glam metal style riffs and the original melody of “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah!” while remaining very aware of itself. It’s campy, punchy, and exudes the type of rudeness that alternative fans praise, and grandmothers strongly disapprove of.
Ramones – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)”
The Ramones‘ original “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” off the lukewarm Brain Drain, took a somewhat sarcastic perspective on the familial stress of the holiday season. It remained just self-aware enough to avoid extreme pessimism but focused on an uncomfortably relatable subject matter, in such a way that it’s been repeatedly covered by other alternative artists attempting to project that same sardonic seasonal attitude.
Adam Green – “Dreidels Of Fire”
This anti-folk anthem celebrates and jokes about the origins of Hanukkah. Adam Green‘s clever lyrics and vulgar repetitive chorus make this a satirical and rustic song that bridges modern cynicism with traditional holiday charm.
No Doubt – “Oi To The World”
This list would be incomplete without mentioning “Oi To The World” The Vandals‘ song popularized by a cover done by No Doubt in 1997. The combative parody of “Joy to the World” describes a chaotic but overall unified punk community, coming together motivated by the spirit of the festivities, or at the very least a communal hatred of mainstream holiday music.