First, if you’re a label or artist looking for a blog to send Christmas music to, please skip mine. For me to write up a Holiday album, it has to be truly extraordinary, like nothing ever done before, because I find most X-mas tunes to be mind-numbing. So why am I reviewing Seattle’s Substance W’s release, “A Boiling Vat Of Adhesive Xmas?” Because it is one such album.
Many of the songs clock in at less than a minute, which suits me fine, and all bizarre without being profane. I don’t like Christmas albums that try to be weird but do so by making x-rated music or strewing cursing and violence all over the place because, at bottom, these songs must be playable with close friends or family and who wants to hear a string of foul language at this time of year? Nearly all the songs on this album are familiar, and stick with traditional lyrics, but do so in ways you’ve never heard before. “It Came Upon The Midnight Clear” takes a Tom Waits-ish vocal track over a simple guitar line, to make a sad song that’s both moving and funny at the same time. The take on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is to use a Tiny Tim kinda soundtrack. “A Stranger Manger” evokes the Chipmunks on acid. “We’re a Couple of Misfits,” told from the p.o.v. of some toys that are not quite right, is realized in a quick punk style, so it’s over before it has a chance to get old or stupid. Well played, because I’m not sure how much more of it I could have taken. Every song seems intended to recall a famous version of a Christmas classic, but twisted and chewed. And Substance W have actual talent—this isn’t just a hatchet job done for kicks. It’s quickly become one of my Holiday faves.
For fans of The Residents, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Tim Burton, Frank Zappa, and anything else wonderfully, creatively weird.
Plus, the cover is trip.