December 2. 2011

Under the Influence of Christmas, The Grip Weeds (Rainbow Quartz)

By Rudolph on December 2, 2011

This album was possibly the most eagerly awaited of rock Christmas albums in 2011, based on my unscientific observation of prerelease buzz, and it was worth the wait. (You have to wait until next week to get it from conventional stores, but the band is already shipping it from their website as a download, CD or vinyl.) For those not familiar, the band, named for John Lennon's character in his only non-Beatles movie appearance, is equally planted in the nouveau-garage scene and as an old-school British Invasion ensemble -- much like their New Jersey neighbors the Smithereens, two of whom guest on the Grip Weeds' cover of "2000 Miles." The band's own "Christmas Dream," which opens the album, also has a bit of the 'Reens sound as well. An unexpected guest on lead vocals is Mark Lindsay, who sings the band's original "Santa Make Me Good," a cool bluesy romp with a catchy harmonica break. "For the Holidays" is a nice minor key original, keying off the intro from XTC's "Dear God" and building into a baroque arrangement with harpsichord, flute and strings. Their previously released original "Christmas, Bring Us" is also here, a fine tune as we've previously mentioned. They get a little psychedelic on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and turn "Welcome Christmas" into an outtake from "Tommy." The 70s get more love from their cover of Jethro Tull's "A Christmas Song," a fairly faithful take on ELP's "I Believe in Father Christmas," and I don't think I've previously come across a rock band cover of "Merry Christmas All," a song from the famous (and compulsively repackaged every few years) Salsoul Orchestra disco Christmas album of the 1970s. The Grip Weeds pulled out all the stops to make this a distinctive, original, rock 'n roll take on Christmas, and a just world would reward them richly for having done so.