"Christmas is all about giving."
It's a catchphrase that's been bludgeoned into us since we were kids, probably from parents wishing to limit expenditure during the debt-inducing holiday. It's not politically correct to say, but for most of us Christmas is actually about getting exactly what you want for YOURSELF. Presents for others are only to save face, ingratiate yourself and to generally not look like a jerk-off. I find most of the time the holidays are spent trying to figure out what I want for Christmas.
Even though I'm usually scrambling to find everyone else's presents 12 hours before the Christmas Eve deadline, I've already planned my presents weeks, sometimes months, in advance. Call me selfish but my fancies are highly sought after by other like-minded trolling misanthropes and it takes quite a bit of prep-time to make sure I get what I want.
Now that the holidays are officially over and stragglers have by now dropped off the last of the presents, it's time to survey the spoils. This year's yield was most fruitful.
Here's what I got:
Mants In Your Pants 7" and Mants T-shirt
Back in the '90s Calgary, Alberta had a bustling garage rock scene with bands like Huevos Rancheros, The Von Zippers, Forbidden Dimension and... The Mants! The Mants were a garage rock trio decked out in suits who wore ant masks. I never saw The Mants live but read about them in zines (pre-historic blogs) and heard their music, but never owned anything by them. Through the magic of Twitter, I was able to connect with Andy Mant, found out they'd relocated to Victoria, British Columbia and have recently reunited. Andy sent me a care package and I got their 7" and T-shirt in the mail on Christmas Eve!
Mighty Men & Monster Maker Kit
I'm most fond of this toy even though I tired of the damn thing fast when playing with it as a kid. Consisting of tile templates in three parts (head, torso, legs), the idea was to mix and match various sketches of monsters and superheroes by rubbing a crayon over paper covering the tiles. There were only so many variations before it all got tiresome, but a five-month quest on eBay with endless lost auctions attempting to procure the Tomy toy landed me my second set just in time to wrap it up for myself for Christmas.
Murder In The Front Row by Harald Oimoen and Brian Lew
I've been eyeing this book since its release on Bazillion Points last year. Murder In The Front Row chronicles the San Francisco Bay Area thrash scene in the '80s through the privileged lenses of photographers, Harald Oimoen (who now plays bass in D.R.I.) and Brian Lew. It is, by far, the greatest photo book on any music scene I've ever seen. The bands themselves couldn't have put out a more exhaustive and detailed account of the period. No one was gonna buy it for me, so I bought it for me.
While everyone in the music biz laments over its so-called demise, trolls like me will be waiting for people to unload their vinyl collections after they've made the transition into the digital age. A few weeks ago my friend Paul S. unloaded his collection, a particularly coveted one, and although most of his punk/indie rock staples were picked at by day's end, I managed to score myself the Ian Mackaye/Jeff Nelson one-off project Egghunt that has eluded me for years. Paul was selling his 7 inches for a buck but he just gave it to me. I now owe him a post-Christmas/pre-Easter drink.
The Melvins Freak Puke
It's hard to believe The Melvins could "take it easy" but on this year's Freak Puke they did just that, substituting Jared Warren and Coady Willis, a.k.a. Big Business, with bassist Trevor Dunn of Mr. Bungle/Fantomas fame for what they dubbed "Melvins Lite."
For the vinyl version, released on Amphetamine Reptile Records, owner Tom Hazelmeyer commissioned several artists for the album's artwork, including Canadian artists Gary Taxali and Dave Cooper. It's nice being friends with Gary and getting a vinyl copy from him on Boxing Day.
Captain Canuck The Complete Edition
Canada's one and only homegrown superhero was Captain Canuck (not Alpha Flight or Wolverine). I had a few issues growing up but it was hard to keep up with the sporadic series. When IDW Publishing released the complete edition last year, all 15 issues were packaged together in a neatly bound collection.
Nobody knew I wanted this so I had to go out and buy it for myself. Weird how I was too shy to tell anyone, but here I am spilling the beans now.
Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth
The barrage of this year's Christmas music had me offsetting it with various bands, one of them was Seattle's Tad and their phenomenal 8 Way Santa album due to obvious seasonal themes. I always wondered what became of Tad Doyle since I thought he was a premier talent that never got his just due. Turns out he's upped the ante with his new outfit, Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth, and one listen through bandcamp.com had me scrambling to buy their stuff. Everybody who likes their "heavy," slowed down, tuned down and melted down vibe should too.
Tad Doyle started following me on Twitter on December 24 and we exchanged a few tweets back and forth, easily making it the best damn Christmas ever, even better than the year when Rudolph guided Santa's sleigh.