“We’ve taken what we’ve learned from some of our favorite Christmas records and did our best to make these numbers our own,” says Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken in the liner notes for the new Smithereens compilation Christmas with The Smithereens.Â A simple glance at the track listÂ shows that the band has their work cut out for them. IncludingÂ Christmas tunes by The Who, Ramones, Chuck Berry, Beach Boys and The Beatles, The Smithereens have set their yuletide goals quite high. But can a band best known for semi-hits in the late ’80s-early ’90s rise to the occasion?
Surprisingly, a quick listen to the album proves that these guys know exactly what they’re doing. Christmas with The Smithereens is more than a Christmas-time cover album.Â This quartet doesÂ an impressive job of channeling the spirt of 1960s rock, and solidly interpreting eachÂ memorable tune. From “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” to “Run Rudolph Run” to “Christmas” (fromÂ the rock opera Tommy), The SmithereensÂ deliver what can only be described as “a rockin’ good Christmas time.”
Original tunes like “Christmas Time All Over the World”Â and “Waking Up On Christmas Morning” add a nice twist to an otherwise familiar record, and are written with such ’60s-savviness that without prior knowledge it would almost be difficult to decide which songs were covers and which were originals. The drumbeat-driven “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas” gets a little repetitive by the end, but still manages to offer an interesting take on the popular story. The harmonies on their version ofÂ ”Auld Lang Syne” are strikingly melodic, while the almost punk beat that drives the song offers a welcome diversion to the serious tone the song itself evokes.
Lead singer Pat Dinizio says that The Smithereens have done their best to create a Christmas album that “you wouldn’t mind listening to the other 11 months of the year.” While the rock vibe provided throughout the album is solid and enjoyable, it’s still a decidedly Christmas album that would just feel a little too out of place in July. During the holiday season, though, listeners will be hard-pressed to find a Christmas album with this much broadÂ playability.Â Imagine a yuletideÂ cross between aÂ BarenakedÂ LadiesÂ acoustic set and The Beatles studio work, and you’ll have a good idea of what you’re in for.
Zach’s Rating: B+
Santa’s rating: B
The Grinch’s rating: D+