BEC Recordings has been making a tradition out of putting out projects showcasing Christmas carols and original tunes in a way only BEC does. Often the listener is treated to renditions of favorite Christmas songs performed by some of their favorite rock, punk, and alternative artists, as well as being introduced to new songs written by the artists themselves. In the 2001 third installment in the Happy Christmas series, we are treated to a wide assortment of artists and styles for yet another diverse volume.
The album opens with the Supertones' brass-less acoustic "Heaven's Got a Baby." Not as strong an opener as the first volume, which was the Tones' "Joy to the World," but a decent second Christmas offering from the group. Following, is relative new comers Relient K with their pop punk offering "Santa Claus is Thumbing to Town." It's a bittersweet track that, being released after their recent sophomore project, is musically reminiscent of that on their self-titled debut last year, and less of their current more matured sound. The poppy surfer punk of Cadet follows with a slowed, more melodic tune for the band, performing "The First Noel." Bleach offers an upbeat yet not-so-uplifting original, "What We Call Christmas," which although I'm a Bleach fan, starts to disrupt the 'Christmasy' feeling the project is supposed to have. A few album highlights follow with Kendall Payne's excellent rendition of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," which seems to best capture a more modern Christmas feeling that most of the other tracks lack. Earthsuit present an electronics-laden "Wonderful Christmas Time," driven by various electronic distortions and synth sounds. Hangnail offers a worthy punk version of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" however, the vocals tend to distract at different points and seem forced. Another highlight is the first recorded track by Poor Old Lu in over five years with their excellent rendition of "What Child is This?" Joy Electric and Starflyer 59 make appearances for the third consecutive volume. JE offers their typical candyland electronic pop with the ecstatic "Mrs. Santa Claus," while Starflyer, Denison Witmer, Aaron Sprinkle, Skyline Drive, and Matt Thiessen & The Earthquakes work to end the album on a much more mellow, serious, or somber note. Denison's lamentful "A Christmas Song," is followed by SF59's mellow and dreary "I'll Be Home for Christmas." And if you're not totally depressed after hearing this song, you're liable to shed a tear after Matt Thiessen (of Relient K) and his band's sad original "I Hate Christmas Parties," a song about the pain of a break up during the Christmas season.
Happy Christmas Vol. 3 is a good collection of artistic offerings for the Christmas season, but under the label of "Happy" you may find yourself in a more reflective mood by the close of the album than uplifted and excited about the Christmas season. It's worth a listen, so check it out this holiday.- Review date: 10/17/01, updated 11/4/01 written by John DiBiase
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