Various Artists

Gimme Some Santa

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Anyone expecting the folks at Cleveland's Scat Records to release a run-of-the-mill Christmas album made up of halfhearted rock renditions of "White Christmas" or "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" will be happy, though probably not surprised, to learn that the label chose to go a much more creative route in compiling Gimme Some Santa. Home to many fine artists over the years, including My Dad Is Dead, Prisonshake, and Guided By Voices, Gimme Some Santa is yet another entry in the label's catalog of top-notch releases. Things get off to an entertaining, endearingly Devo-ish start with Puff Tube's delightfully warped "Let's Shave Rudolph." A one-man-band concocted by Scott Pickering (who has also served in Spike in Vain, Gem, and Prisonshake), Puff Tube's track is a layer cake of noises, horns, loops, and various spliced-together sounds combined to create an almost danceable backbeat intertwined with distorted, nearly robotic vocals rapping about, well, shaving Rudolph. The selection by the Soul Vandals seems to be lacking in any sort of holiday theme (though it's hard to tell as the lyrics are nearly indecipherable), but their clanking "Mama Was a Piss Surgeon" fits in quite well nevertheless, at times coming across like a garagey take on the Talking Heads' brand of spastic oddity. Scat chief Robert Griffin's outfit, Prisonshake, checks in with a wicked one-two combo of "Skating" and "Seasoned Greetings." Yes, the former is a fuzzed-out, and surprisingly effective, reworking (and, eventually, noisy deconstruction) of the Vince Guaraldi A Charlie Brown Christmas piece. "Seasoned Greetings" is an explosive cover of a song found on Meet the Residents, the 1974 debut album by mysterious avant-weirdos the Residents. Residents covers or not, the truly most unusual cut on Gimme Some Santa is easily the album-closer, "Bobo the Chimp." Branching out from their usual first-rate brand of straightforward, pop-laced Clevo guitar rock (sort of a precursor to the alt-rock movement that was about to erupt), Four Coyotes serve up a backdrop of eerie, hypnotic, atmospheric sounds over which a hurried narrator tells the story of Bobo. (Musically, the track seems to be an early indication of the intriguingly bizarre sounds (ex)Coyotes Todd and Tim Tobias would explore at greater length on their underrated 2001 collaboration with Robert Pollard as the Circus Devils.) A bit too involved and strange to sum up in a few sentences, suffice it to say that this fractured Christmas tale involves an abused circus chimp, a baby Jesus that is hatched from an egg and bears striking resemblance to a pirate, and concludes with the baby Jesus crushing Bobo's skull and praying for "forgiveness, and a ride to Jerusalem." The story is sure to replace A Christmas Carol as a holiday classic. OK, maybe not, but you'll be plenty entertained by the puzzled looks on your guests' faces when you slip this cheeky gem onto the turntable at your next yuletide shindig. Pass the, ahem, eggnog.

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