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Deck The Halls, Bruise Your Hand - Click to view!Christmas is truly the most amazing time of the year for me. Hearing carolers sing down the street brings a tear to my eye, tender moments among family and friends are always well spent, and for some odd reason, every cup of hot chocolate tastes a little better around Christmas time. It's the only time of the winter season that makes me feel warm and squishy inside. Apparently I'm not the only person with these sentiments, because Relient K is helping make the holidays a bit more special this year with the release of their first Christmas record, Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand.

Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand features Relient K rocking the sleigh by covering eight holiday classics and contributing three of their own yuletide creations. If you own BEC's Happy Christmas Vol. 3, two of these tracks should sound utterly familiar: they're none other than "Santa Clause is Thumbing to Town" and "I Hate Christmas Parties." Unlike traditional Christmas carols, though, these tunes provoke slight depression instead of spreading holiday cheer. "...Thumbing to Town" carries enough energy to power 900 feet of Christmas lights, staying true to the heavy riffs and lyrical hooks rK is known for; unfortunately, as the story goes, Santa fails his mission this year due to some renegade elves sabotaging his sleigh. It's good for a few laughs, but unless you delight at making small children cry, keep it far, far away from them. On the other hand, "I Hate Christmas Parties" (performed by Matt Thiessen and the Earthquakes) is melancholic through and through, excluding a slight interlude full of "fa la la's." The lone piano harmony is accompanied by lyrics from the standpoint of a brokenhearted Scrooge: "I hate Christmas parties / you offer me a drink but I just shrug / I hate Christmas parties / you and the cookie tray both hear me say 'bah-humbug.'" Like I said, depressing, but it's worth a listen for artistic merit at the least. Besides, the band makes up for it on a totally new track, "I Celebrate the Day." Our dispirited piano from the aforementioned tunes undergoes a dramatic transformation as it spews forth melodic, joyful notes. Eventually it's joined by a triumphant drum set and Thiessen's stirring vocals, celebrating a truth that we seldom fully realize: "I celebrate the day / that you were born to die / so I could one day pray for you to save my life / pray for you to save my life." Before it ends, you'll find yourself singing along in exuberant worship rather than ordinary caroling. Dare I say it's worth the price of the CD alone?

The remainder of Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand consists of old school carols done in typical Relient K fashion. Lots of delights here, but you'll especially want to take note of "12 Days of Christmas," with its hilarious ponderance: "What's a partridge? What's a pear tree? I don't know so please don't ask me, but I can bet those are terrible gifts to get." "Handel's Messiah (The Hallelujah Chorus)" also deserves acclamation in spite of its brevity, but the band's a cappella performance of "Auld Lang Syne" should garner a standing ovation. Rounding out the disc are favorites such as "Angels We Have Heard on High," "Silent Night," and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

While I realize that Christmas has been commercialized to death, I highly recommend Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand as a superb addition to your holiday catalogue. It also serves as a nifty stocking stuffer, since you can only obtain it by purchasing a copy of Relient K's Two Lefts Don't Make a Right... But Three Do. Keep the Christmas album, give the copy of Two Lefts... to a friend (I'm sure there's a vile marketing ploy at work here). But I digress: this disc is a sincere reminder of what the Christmas season is all about. Get yours before Black Friday and the following hectic shopping days get you.
- Rick Foux
December 2003
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