Directed by John Hughes. [Oh really? -ed.] From Christmas Party, out now on Rhino.
Ho ho ho, everybody!
“Unwrap You At Christmas” was written by Andy Partridge and it’s weird that Micky sounds like he’s trying to sound like XTC. Probably imitating the demo a little too closely. Still, it’s a good pop song as if you’d expect anything less from then pen of Andy Partridge. I’m not complaining. So hey hey, new Monkees!
Christmas Party follows 2016’s Good Times and carries on several of its ideas: produced by Adam Schlesinger featuring new songs written by Partridge, Rivers Cuomo, and some vintage stuff so Davy Jones can be included. This one also features a new song written by Peter Buck And Scott McCaughey.
Too bad this time they couldn’t convince Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller to collaborate on a Christmas song; their “Birth of an Accidental Hipster” was a highlight of Good Times.
But if you’ve ever wanted to hear Micky Dolenz cover Big Star’s “Jesus Christ,” Christmas Party‘s got you covered.
Of course, my favorite Monkees holiday song has always been and always will be “Riu Chiu.” (It’s included as a bonus track on the Target exclusive edition.)
Who says people don’t buy CDs anymore? Rhino just pre-sold its entire limited edition pressing of the Grateful Dead’s “Europe ’72: The Complete Recordings” box set, in less than four days. This is an insane collection, with 60+ CDs that comprise the full recordings of all 22 Dead shows on that historic tour. With a $450 price tag and a whole bunch of extras including a coffee table book, this was not a box set for the casual fan.
Which brings us back to the problem that’s been plaguing the record industry for over a decade: It’s run by MBA dickheads at giant corporations who don’t give a shit about music, real music fans, or anything other than money. If these assholes can’t create a celebrity culture around an artist, with an integrated marketing plan that includes movies, books, toys, and other “branded product tie-ins” they don’t want anything to do with it.
Well, fuck them. Do the math here: 60 CDs and 7,200 copies is 432,000 discs sold. Even if Billbaord/Soundscan doesn’t count each individual disc of a box set as a separate sale, when “Europe ’72: The Complete Recordings” ships the Dead will have sold over four times as many CDs as the Decemberists did this past week with their #1 album “The King Is Dead.” And the sales number for this new collection will certainly grow between now and the actual release date in September, as the Dead have announced plans to issue a music-only version of the collection to meet the overwhelming demand.
We’ve all taken a great deal of pleasure in pissing on the death bed of the major labels in recent years, and we’ve all unashamedly gawked at the grotesque spectacle of ever-decreasing sales of physical media. But now, the reality of the situation is hitting home. Rhino Records is dead.
Sure, Warner says that Rhino will evolve into an entity that “handles WMG’s global digital catalog initiatives, film, TV, vidgame and commercial licensing, and name and likeness representation for legendary artists.” But they laid off most [a bunch] of their employees. Why? Because of the “fundamental transformation of the physical new release and catalog business.” Which translates to no more awesome box sets with crazy, unique packaging and informative, well-written, well-researched liner notes.
For a band who only released two real albums that were both universally ignored at the time, Big Star certainly has a high profile these days. Why? Because they wrote really catchy songs that might not have been en vogue at the time, but have aged very, very well. It doesn’t hurt that everyone from R.E.M. to Okkervil River has covered their songs.
And now they’re getting the reissue treatment. And how. First off, the twofer of #1 Record (1972) and Radio City (1974) is getting remastered and reissued and re-released on June 16 with bonus tracks (single mix of “In the Street” and single edit of “O My Soul”). They’re also being released “on two separate vinyl LPs featuring faithfully reproduced artwork, including the original Ardent Records labels.” So that’s pretty cool.
For fans who don’t really care about remastered audio or alternate mixes, on September 15 Rhino is releasing a four-disc box set of rarities, including “pre-Big Star bands Rock City and Icewater, solo work from Alex Chilton and Chris Bell, and unreleased material from the #1 Record, Radio City and Third/Sister Lover sessions.” The fourth disc contains live material from January 1973 including some covers of the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Kinks, and T.Rex. You can stream the unreleased “Lovely Day” at Rhino’s site.
As if that’s not enough Rhino Handmade is releasing a deluxe edition Chris Bell’s solo album I Am The Cosmos, too.
A good compilation gives a newcomer a chance to sample a group’s best work over the course of its career. Stay Golden, Smog is not a good compilation. It collects songs from only two of the band’s five official releases, and—crassly, to give fans an incentive to open their wallets—tacks on an early version of “Until You Came Along” and a non-album cover of Brian Wilson‘s “Love And Mercy.” Crass.
You’d be far better off going out and just picking up Weird Tales. It’s an underrated gem of late-90s sad bastard music. You know an album is solid when Jeff Tweedy‘s contributions are not even the best songs—despite the fact that it contains one of Tweedy’s most perfect songs, “Please Tell My Brother.”
If you end up loving Weird Tales as much as you should, you can go back and get Down by the Old Mainstream, and then you’ll have everything on this silly new comp.
Not included in this collection: anything from their debut pre-Tweedy covers EP, On Golden Smog, or anything from their two most recent releases on Lost Highway (Another Fine Day and the Blood on the Slacks EP). We all know it’s work to license recordings that are owned by other labels, but come on, Rhino, do your job.