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Now here is a unique release. There are many holiday records released each year and there are a wide variety of split releases that have come out over the years featuring one band on side A and another on side B. I do not know, however, of another split holiday release, at least on a 12”.
Ultimately, though, I am reviewing this (a bit later than I hoped to) a little less than a week after Christmas (it came out on December 10th) not because of the record’s novelty, but because it is a great record featuring two great bands.
Taggart occupy side A and are a long-running Philadelphia/New Jersey band whose sound could be described as a throwback to a time when indie rock meant a specific style of music ala bands such as Superchunk and Archers of Loaf, not the catch-all phrase it encompasses these days; except, of course, that they were around during that era, having recorded as early as 1997. More over, their songs have hooks, are memorable, and they rock with no pretension whatsoever. Though there is only one original on their side (the future Christmas classic “Wishmas”), this is also reflected in their choice of cover material, at least for the most part. Though their side is bookended by snippets of Foghat‘s “Slow Ride” with lyrics re-written as “Snow Day” (hence the title of this record), things get much more interesting as they tackle the Descendents classic “Christmas Vacation” and The Kinks‘ also fantastic “Father Christmas.”
The Successful Failures, the band of FDR label head Mick Chorba, occupy side B and their brand of New Jersey power pop (think of bands ranging from The Smithereens to labelmates Bastards of Melody) is a perfect match for Taggart. If one listens to this album in mp3 form or on CD where side 2 just follows side 1, it flows really well. Anyhow, there is only one cover (a great version of The Ramones‘ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” on their side and 3 equally enjoyable originals. Though “Good Night to the Last Night” (appropriate as I am writing this on December 31st) is really a New Years’ Eve song, the two other originals deal with holiday merriment, gift giving and wishing and what not. Of these, I really like “Christmas Morning (Yellow Canary)” but there is not a dud in the bunch.
Something else that should be mentioned here is that the artwork is absolutely mesmerizing. In an age where less and less emphasis is placed on the visual aspect of records, it is a treat to see Matt Hanemann‘s artwork, especially on the 12”.
In summary, I have a feeling I’ll be listening to this one year-round as this is not just a holiday novelty record. You can stream and buy it here.
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