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Christmas is the weirdest time of the year. Who better to musically document the season than John Waters?

These traits, matched with Waters's well-known and unerring eye for the absurd, the tacky and the grotesque, result in a must-have holiday CD. There's "Happy Birthday Jesus (A Child's Prayer)," the utterly sanctimonious recitation by Little Cindy -- sure to turn the stomachs of anyone who has ever been exposed to Christian fundamentalism. Rudolph and Gang contribute the anti-Santa diatribe "Here Comes Fatty Claus," the chorus of which goes like this: "Here comes Fatty with his sack of shit / and all his stinkin' reindeer." There's "Little Mary Christmas," the story of, as Waters puts it in the notes, a "pathologically maudlin" crippled orphan girl passed over year after year by potential adoptive parents and who is ever forced to buck up for another year as she "hobbles back to her room." And this CD even has a Houston connection: Also included is Jimmy Donley's "Santa! Don't Pass Me By," which was produced by none other than Huey Meaux, whose sordid secret life has always seemed like a real-life John Waters movie anyway. (Waters would really dig little details like Meaux's gynecological table and his drawerful of costume jewelry, cheap booze and cocaine.)

Bad, bad, very bad stuff there, but at least Waters views grotesqueries like these with a detached eye, and Meaux had sense enough to keep his jailbait sin den under lock and key. No such luck with Trans-Siberian Orchestra -- purveyors of solemn, theatrical rock bluster so pompous and bombastic that even the likes of Rush, Styx, Yngwie Malmsteen and the entire assemblage of early 1970s British art rockers seem positively down-to-earth by comparison. Imagine the happy-clappiness of the Polyphonic Spree crossed with Iron Maiden's ax-shredding fury and Yes's ludicrous high-art yearnings, and you have the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's latest Yuletide oeuvre, The Lost Christmas Eve, which is, as befits all acts like this, a concept album. No, scratch that -- it's the final chapter in their "rock opera trilogy." (Something about angels, crack babies, broken families and, naturally, redemption.) It's all quite well played technically, but like the guitar-playing of Joe Satriani, it has as much soul as a Wal-Mart parking lot. Avoid it, unless your vision of Santa has long, feathered hair and dons such gay apparel as a silver codpiece and a red spandex suit.

Houston's own El Orbits are far too natty to ever don such monstrous gear as that, and The El Orbits Holiday Album is the perfect antidote to the TSO's operatic zeal. Wisely, the El Orbits view of holiday music extends beyond such traditional fare as "White Christmas" and "Winter Wonderland" to include wintry tunes like "Candy Man" (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was always on TV here at Christmastime in the '70s) and random oldies like "The Spanish Flea," "Hey Baby" and "What a Wonderful World." As always, the band delivers the tunes with charm, humor and plenty of cheer.

Which is what we could all use more of this time of the year. So, to quote John Waters, "Have a merry, rotten, scary, sexy, biracial, ludicrous, happy little Christmas."

And may all your virgins be round and yon.

Scuttlebutt Caboose

One way to accomplish Waters's command is to, like, go out and help some sick kids or something. And with the help of Crazy Tony Avitia, you can do just that at Crazy Tony Loves Da Kids!, a benefit show for the M.D. Anderson Children's Art Project at Fitzgerald's this Saturday. Hip-hoppers I-45, Studemont Project and Q.U.E. head a rap-heavy bill, with Sugar Land's 57 State representing for the rockers. DJ Destro, DJ Vango and DJ Sqince will all spin at the event, which will be attended by some of the young M.D. Anderson cancer patients the show's proceeds will be helping.

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