In an unfortunate confluence of the Hebrew and Christian calendars, Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 25, which means that we Jews will have to deal with the ol' "Hanukkah? Isn't that the Jewish Christmas?" thing from those unenlightened goyim a lot more than usual this year. Still, when it comes to music, Jewish songwriters and performers have played no small part in fostering such confusion. You've got 19th-century Parisian Jew Adolphe Adam, who composed the enduring Christmas carol "O Holy Night." And of course Irving Berlin, the Russian-born Jew who wrote "White Christmas." And don't look to Barbra Streisand and Barry Manilow to represent the Tribe -- both of them have put out two Christmas albums and zero Hanukkah albums. Other wayward Jews include Michael Bolton, Kenny G, Sleater- Kinney (two-thirds Jewish!) and Yo La Tengo -- which, back in 2002, actually had the beytzim to hand out a free EP of Christmas songs at its annual Hanukkahpalooza eight-night stand in its native Hoboken, New Jersey! Until this situation is righted, here's what we're stuck with during this Festival of Lights:
Adam Sandler, "The Chanukah Song": Dubiously amusing the first time around, Sandler's outing of Jewish celebs as a matter of pride is about as painful a repeat listen now as "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer." And Jewish grandmas don't really like that line "Smoke your marijuanakkah "
Barenaked Ladies, Barenaked for the Holidays: Following in the footsteps of such musical Canadian Jews as Leonard Cohen and William Shatner, Barenaked Ladies front man (and resident Semite) Steven Page led his wretched band through Hanukkah songs like "I Have a Dreidel" and "Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah" -- all of them making "One Week" sound like "Hey Jude" in comparison.
Jewish holiday music
Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics: This holiday album from the creators of South Park does include the genuinely funny, Stan-sung lament "The Lonely Jew on Christmas," although Great-Uncle Shlomo might not appreciate the Cartman-as-Hitler version of "O Tannenbaum."
The LeeVees, Hanukkah Rocks: A valiant effort from this Jewpergroup led by Adam Gardner (of Guster) and Dave Schneider (of the Zambonis), this just-released album comes closer than anything in recent memory to delivering legit new Hanukkah songs but still crumbles under the weight of the overall gimmick. "Latke Clan" and "Jewish Girls (at the Matzoh Ball)" sound like Hanukkah on the Kinks' tour bus circa 1966, while "Applesauce vs. Sour Cream" plays like a Hebrew They Might Be Giants (They Might Be Nudniks?). Not bad, but not likely to stand the test of time.
Neil Diamond, 12 Songs: While not exactly Hanukkah-related, this is one fine comeback album from Diamond (a.k.a. the Jewish Elvis) produced by Rick Rubin, that nice Jewish boy from Long Island. Crank this, then spin that friggin' dreidel and hope for the best. Go, gimmel!
Sarah Silverman, "Give the Jew Girl Toys": Just in time for the inevitable mainstream backlash against indie comedy's no-longer-best-kept-secret comes this future perennial holiday favorite, replete with a video downloadable at www.oilfactory.com/?video=249. Thrill as our smirking, pigtailed Sarah takes her place under someone's stately tannenbaum, proudly haranguing the unsuspecting Mr. Claus thusly: "I don't believe he was the son of God / but I think he was a really nice boy / Don't be a douche / What would Jesus do? / He'd say 'give the Jew girl toys.' " Amen to that, sister.
All hail Slayer! The monstrous sound of Reign in Blood inspires to this day. Unfortunately, much of what it inspires is adolescent claptrap such as the majority of death metal. Even though most fans of this "scariest" form of music are pimply dipwads, every once in a while the music attracts a batshit loonball who takes the silliness seriously and kills someone.
This continues to be a hot topic in Italy, that land of pasta and sexual harassment, with the continuing saga of the Beasts of Satan, a group responsible for several vicious killings. While these deaths are tragedies, there are now those in the clergy and parliament who want to ban death metal. For this foolish shortsightedness, we must issue a fatwa!
The argument is as old as music itself -- or at least as old as the infamous 1933 suicide song, "Gloomy Sunday." Music is never more than music. Banning Gretchen Wilson won't end Skoal use. Forbidding "Who Let the Dogs Out" won't help enforce leash laws. In the end, Italy, all you are doing is giving Deicide more press. And we all know that is a bad idea.
Fatwa! May all of your sisters have their buns pinched by leering men -- oh, wait. Too late. May all of your women's buns grow teeth until you can acknowledge that music is music is music. It is written.
BETWEEN THE CRACKS
Band name: Belleview
Web site: www.myspace.com/belleview
Personnel: Deuce Barry (vocals/skin flute), Stiltz Johnson (guitar), Lil' Wood (guitar), Stu Ewoldt (bass), M1k3 Treadway (skins)
Native or transplant? Native
What's in a name, particularly yours? Deuce is way into horror flicks, and most insane asylums in B horror films are called Belleview.
When did you form? Roughly a year ago
Who or what do you think you sound like? Fugazi, At the Drive In, Sonic Youth, Refused, Team Sleep
What are some of your noteworthy recent feats? We're losers. We haven't accomplished anything.
What artists have had the biggest impact on you? Elliott Smith, Ravi Shankar, Chino Moreno, Mike Patton, Billy Corgan, Dan the Automator
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How do you pay the bills? What is your day job? We work at Evolution, a head shop/music store; UPS; and we even clean pools.
Give us a random factoid about yourself: We don't like each other very much.
Jay-Z or Z-Trip? Z-Trip
Parting shot? Tequila