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Maxmas - Volume II

Madison Area Music Christmas Compilation Vol. 2

M.A.Xmas Vol 2 CD Cover CD: Madison Area Christmas Compilation Volume 2
Record Label: Kuhler Music
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by Mike Huberty
November 2011

Christmas albums tend to be schmaltzy overblown affairs by aging artists looking to cash in on their demographically-changing audience as they move from the hipster stage to developing families. Scott Weiland’s latest bizarre big-band/lounge Holiday embarrassment is just another in a long line of overt money grabs by rockers as they struggle for relevance in the fluid and fickle morass of pop music popularity. Christmas albums are for guys like Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond, right? (Yes, he did release one and yes, I did see The Jazz Singer, thank you.)

Well, thank sweet Zombie Jesus that the Madison Area Christmas Compilation Vol. 2 (abbreviated M.A.Xmas) is the antidote to that kind of thing.  Following on the popularity of last year’s original compilation, they decided to up the ante this year to include fourteen different Madison acts.  Ranging from punk to ska to metal to straight-up rock, each band plays their favorite Christmas classic and in addition, contributes an original Christmas composition, so it’s a massive undertaking to corral that many musicians (think herding cats, but imagine drunken moody egotistical cats) to make this happen.

The guys behind the album, John Kussow and Jeremy Gehler, came upon the original idea while listening to a RIngo Starr Christmas Album in 2010 (yeah, it would have been cooler if they were listening to the Star Wars: Christmas in the Stars album, but Ringo is alright too.) For the engineering portion, they enlisted the help of local musicians Dan-O Stoffels and Chris Kasper, who also happen to be the audio recording instructors at Madison Media Institute. That meant a couple of things that were particularly important for the project - Number one, it meant access to one of the most advanced audio production facilities in the city. Number two, it meant that they could also get assistance from the students at Madison Media Institute and that is a lot of bodies to help make the record happen. In return, the students get the chance to work with a huge variety of local musicians on a project that spans a good deal of the players in the city’s rock scene.

This year’s recording doesn’t skimp a bit on the irreverence that made the last year’s disc such a feloniously guilty pleasure. Appropriately for rock n’ roll, there’s plenty of debauchery and most of it at the expense of the jolly old elf himself. The song titles practically stink of Yuletide merriment with tracks like “Santa Claus is Coming to Kill You” by Axiom, “Drunk for Christmas” by Government Zero, “Dirty Drunken Santa’” by Lot 74, “Hangover for Christmas” by Omninaut, “Santa Claus Is A Vampire” by Dr. Noise, and what will one day hopefully become a perennial Holiday favorite, “F#$% You, it’s Christmas” by Kill Junior.

While there’s a lot of fun and games on the recording, there’s also some sentimentality that managed to slip through the beer-soaked cracks, Government Zero does a version of John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” and Kill Junior brings a surprisingly faithful rendition of The King’s “Blue Christmas”. No one is more earnest than fantasy-power-metal warriors Lords of The Trident, and they come through with a ridiculous version of “O Come O Come Emanuell”. Madison rockers, Sunspot, also have a thoughtful, intimate composition about the soldiers returning from Iraq this Holiday with “Next Plane (Welcome Home)” as well as counteracting a little of the album’s testosterone with a revved-up “Santa Baby” that features the album’s only female lead vocal.

M.A.Xmas Vol 2 is being released with a big party at the Regent Street Retreat on December 10th. Most of the bands on the CD will be performing short sets including their Christmas numbers, and if it’s anything like last year, most of the people attending will probably be added to Santa’s naughty list before the evening is over. The show starts at 7pm and will feature music on 2 stages. Some of the proceeds will go towards the Second Harvest Food Drive as well.

Also, make sure to listen to Max Ink Radio on Tuesday December 6th because The Bastard Den will be having a special M.A.Xmas event live at The Frequency from 4-9pm. It’s a chance to meet the bands and hang out and talk about the upcoming album. It’s a record that’s unique, fun, and something very distinctly Madison. If you’re looking for Christmas music that’s completely different than anything else out there right now this year, then you should definitely stuff your stockings with M.A.Xmas Vol 2.


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