New Heathens
22Dec/110

Two Holiday Plugs

I learned a great word recently from a couple new buds who work as sportswriters. The word is "Homer," as in "home run" or "Simpson." In their context, the term "Homer" refers to a sportswriter who's plainly biased towards the home team.

Such are my music reviews, friends. I can't even feign objectivity anymore.

In that spirit, I wanted to call your attention to two classics, one timely, one time-ticking; both timeless.

Plug numero uno, just in time for the season, is a bona-fide Christmas record from my old and great friends and teachers Chip Whitson and Bob Wire. It says something about their caliber of musicianship and tunesmithing that these two wiseacres, veteran bar-band barnstormers of the Inland Empire, created a supergroup just by teaming up. Their record "Off-White Christmas," is a honky-tonk, solid-gold, laughalong. "Off White" showcases Whitson in full rockabilly-Grinch mode, on one track crooning "Sha-la-la-la don't come home this Christmas," and on another growling, "You ain't gettin' shit!" Wire revels in redneck satire, barking like a infomercial pitchman on the politically prescient, buy-now-pay-later ode, "Credit Card Christmas," and then like a boxing announcer giving the blow-by-blow of a dangerous game of lawn ornament one-upsmanship in, "The Great Christmas Decoration Tragedy of 1981."

Musically "Off White" is pleasing in its sophisticated familiarity. Wire has a great, charging country feel but it's Whitson who delivers some of the most sonically pleasing moments. Whitson shows off his masterful ability to fuse together early sixties sounds including rock, pop, rockabilly, Motown and soul. "Santa's Got A Sharkskin Suit," swings like mad, "My Ex-Miss Carol" decks the halls with boughs of Buddy Holly and "I'd Rather Be Alone" sounds like it could've been sung by Elvis Presley's grouchy twin brother after flipping across a rerun of "Blue Hawaii" (you know, in an alternate universe where Jesse Garon survives childbirth and goes on to live a life of obscurity; the Tito to Elvis' Michael).

The punchlines make this record a real kick. Every tune is packed with 'em. In "Santa's Getting Bigger" Wire yuks, "He comes down your chimney with his sack/The first thing that he looks for is a big ol' snack." Later he weeps his way through "My Birthday's on Christmas," a child's lament of getting only one present for two celebrations. Whitson has some off-white holiday pun, I mean fun, with lyrics like, "Thinking of you while he decks your halls," on "I'd Rather Be Alone," and "You eat all my food and leave nothing but your Yule log," on "(Sha-la-la-la) Don't Come Home This Christmas."

The high points of this record are its duets. "Last Minute Shopper," begins with Whitson moaning the blues about waiting until after dark on Christmas Eve to buy gifts. Then with a drum roll the song kicks into doubletime and an adrenalized -- some might even say amphetaminized -- Wire gleefully name-checks all the gas station goodies he's able to buy at "the all night truckstop out on Highway 9." They include a folding knife for his son, a friendship bracelet for his wife, a rawhide pretzel for the dog and even "a case of Red Bull just of fun." Suck it, Robert Earl Keen.

The last song, "I Can't Believe It's Christmastime Again," is a real gem. It's a duet between Wire and his wife Shannon (known onstage, of course, as "Barb Wire.") Mrs. Wire starts each verse singing a pretty melody over a major chord, and then Wire clangs a minor chord and offers Bah Humbug rejoinders. "Christmas is a special time of year," the Missus sings before -- clang! -- Wire retorts, "Because it makes my paycheck disappear." And then after she reminds that Christmas is a time of hope  -- clang! --  Wire deadpans, "Has anybody seen my bag of dope?"

Can he really say that? In a Christmas song?

That last song features the Wires' son, Hudson, on bass guitar and daughter, Sophie, on viola. Its a sweet family moment tucked alongside these two longtime friends and star chuckleheads having their fun. And hey, shouldn't that be a part of everybody's Christmas?

Click here to download or order Off White Christmas from CD Baby.

Here's plug numero two. Friends, please click here, go to Little Steven's Underground Garage and vote my friends' Spanking Charlene's song "Dismissed With A Kiss" the "Coolest Song In The World" for 2011.

That song, "Dismissed With A Kiss," was produced by Little Steven and was picked as "Coolest Song of the Week" in early May, earning it some major airplay on Little Stevie's Sirius Satellite Radio Show, "The Underground Garage."

Now Spanking Charlene are up against the likes of Robbie Robertson, Tom Morello, Blondie, even Joey Ramone himself for the title of Coolest Song of the Year. My sources in the organization tell me that as of right now, they're running in the top five!

Here's the deal, go to this link NOW (because voting ends at midnight FRIDAY) and scroll down to Dismissed With A Kiss, dated May 8, 2011. VOTE FOR IT!

Then feel free to download the song from iTunes, along with Spanx Charlene's other too-cool single "Canarsie" (note: be careful NOT to vote for "Canarsie" for Coolest Song 2011 -- "Dismissed" is the one that's running closest to the top.)

Be on the lookout in 2012 for Spanking Charlene's new full length album "Where Are The Freaks," featuring a cameo harp solo by yours truly.

Happy, Merry everybody.

- Homer

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