Friday, December 25, 2015

Music Review: Christmas with The Killers

I had stumbled across The Killers' "Please Don't Shoot Me Santa" a few years ago, and I would periodically play it because it was kind of fun. I only learned this year that they do a Christmas song every year, releasing it around December 1st for World AIDS Day and donating the proceeds to the Product Red campaign that strives to eliminate AIDS.

This good cause has developed into a great tradition, now going on ten years. They have brought in other people - some musicians and some not. Each song stands on its own musically, without any sense of repetition. They may go back to certain themes, but they do each one differently. I appreciate that a lot, especially in light of some of the more recent reviews.

Also, while some songs are serious, in general it looks like there is a lot of fun. I can't even say that it looks like they are having fun, because their facial expressions are usually pretty serious, but there are these glimpses that suggest to me that they are having fun, as well as it being a reasonably logical conclusion that of course this would be fun; it looks like a blast!

Here is a quick rundown of each song:

2006 - "A Great Big Sled"

The very first, and probably the most traditional. The song touches on childhood nostalgia, and the video is fairly straightforward with the studio process and some celebrating. However, I am pretty sure that is Ryan Pardey in the Santa suit, and he does at one point carve a turkey. I can't help but wonder if that image of him wielding the knife led to the next year's offering.

2007 - "Don't Shoot Me Santa"

Santa is dirty and scary here, and getting ready to execute lead singer Brandon Flowers who has been a bad boy. Even though Brandon says that he's been killing just for fun, I can't want him dead, so it is a relief when is crew comes and rescues him.

(Also, if you're reading the Family books, you know that's how bands work when I'm writing.)

2008 - "Joseph, Better You Than Me"

This has mainly footage from old movies, but the subject matter is really touching and often neglected. Probably their most serious offering.

2009 "Happy Birthday Guadalupe"

There is a bit of Western theme here, but even more imagery from the Dia de los Muertos. That seems like the wrong holiday, but you know Dickens wrote a ghost story every Christmas, even if only one is famous, and it's a time of year when the dead seem close. I say it works. Luke Perry heads into a church, so they may be near Los Angeles.

2010 "Boots"

A homeless man missing his family is worn down in Los Angeles, but a microphone brings some hope and a chance to sing out his heart. You don't know if he is singing well or badly, and maybe it doesn't matter. It brings enough funds to encourage him to celebrate with his family. Starting with a clip from It's a Wonderful Life, it correlates well.

ETA: This is set in Las Vegas. I thought he was on the Walk of Fame, but it's the strip.

2011 "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball

Shot in an almost lurid color palette that harkens back to the 50s/60s, this not only references cowboy movies but also space invasion movies, and it's a lot of fun even before you get to a robot dancing the robot.

2012 "I Feel It in My Bones"

A sequel to "Don't Shoot Me Santa", this picks up with Santa angry about the band's rescue of Brandon, and stalking all of them, which causes them to sleep badly. In this Santa reminds me of the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse from Raising Arizona, but ingeniously Christmas-themed. The director was Roboshobo, who also did "Na Na Na" for My Chemical Romance.

2013 "Christmas in L.A."

Lonely and discouraged Owen Wilson has a really depressing Christmas that includes getting snubbed by Harry Dean Stanton. It's even worse than for the guy in "Boots", though they do both wander into churches. Some is live-action, but there is some gorgeous animation as well.

2014 "Joel the Lump of Coal"

I love this so much. It is adorable and sweet and correct about carbon and the environment. Also, while it is not murderous Santa, Santa is kind of jerk which is kind of a staple of Christmas specials. The aspect of a Santa giving coal to naughty kids isn't played up that much, but we do have a Santa canceling Christmas because he has a cold, and rejecting Rudolph, so it's something to think about. And often the bad ones are sad inside, but there is beauty there too.

This one is really perfectly done, including the sweaters and the tear that rolls down Ronnie's cheek and turns into a beautiful snowflake.

2015 "Dirt Sledding"

The third installment of Ryan Pardey's murderous Santa has him left burnt out and depressed by his quest. Passing out alone, he is woken and cheered by a Halloween pumpkin, Thanksgiving turkey, Easter bunny, and a tooth fairy, only it is really the band in disguise, and when the disguises come off there is grace and reconciliation for all, plus a new red car!

"Dirt Sledding" almost feels like a culmination. Not only does it round out the Deadly Santa trilogy, but it also connects back to the first song. They have gone from missing their youth sledding in snow to finding a solution for their environment, sledding in dirt.

I guess this means they could quit, but I hope this goes on. There's a lot of fun here, and the music is of high quality with lots of variety. I was pretty fond of The Killers anyway, but I have to love that.

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