Let it snow

It’s hard to tell what label issued the various-artists holiday compilation Elves Built My Hot Rod—Pus Cavern Christmas CD Vol. 2. There are as many logos on the back of the thing as you’ll find on the back of a major-label rap release: Pus Cavern, 98 Rock KRXQ, Sacramento Skate Associates, Multi Media Products, the Electric Page, Monster Lab Audio, even SN&R—the latter indicating that this publication’s promotions department was involved somehow. The disc’s proceeds, according to the liner notes, will go toward building a public skate park somewhere in Sacramento.

The music is a pretty decent barometer of the local rock scene, or at least the part of it that wouldn’t mind a major-label deal. The music is well-recorded and includes the punkish stylings of Whiskey Rebels, Red Tape, Helper Monkeys, Smarty and Wurkt (which covers Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad”); the pop-punkish stylings of Honeyspot and Shop 11 Phoenix; more mainstream rock such as 7th Standard (newly signed to Immortal/Virgin), Parish, Rezyn and Page 29; along with more flow-oriented fare such as Off Tha Wagon’s “Weezie Xmas Blues.” Other acts doing covers include Lariska Bryski (Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby”), Contents Under Pressure (Run-DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis”), Pressure Point (the Kinks’ “Father Christmas”), Oddman (a Cookie Monster take on Weezer’s “Christmas Celebration”), Simplistic (“O Holy Night”) and Brand X Savior (Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne’s “Let It Snow,” perhaps the set’s most unrecognizable version).

Of the 21 songs, 12 are originals, which brings up a problem: Not everyone is a budding Mel Torme or Irving Berlin. It’s one thing to write good tunes for your band—Milwaukee’s “And Now It’s Christmas,” 7th Standard’s “Only One” and Eightfourseven’s “A Canvas of White and Grey” being the strongest here. It’s another thing to be able to write good holiday songs, with that certain melodic cadence that says “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” Nothing on this CD rises to that challenge.

Two shows remain to promote the disc live: Friday, December 13, at Capitol Garage, 1427 L Street (with Helper Monkeys, Brand X Savior, Eightfourseven and Smarty); and Friday, December 20, at the Boardwalk, 9427 Greenback Lane in Orangevale (with Contents Under Pressure, Wurkt, Simplistic, Rezyn and Page 29). Admission for both shows is $10 (CD included) or $7.

And in the Twilight Zone Theremin department, photographer Susan Conerly is exhibiting pictures she took in Papua New Guinea at Zanzibar Trading Co., 1901 1/2 Capitol Avenue, this Saturday. What’s strange? When Conerly was traveling in PNG, a really remote place, she hooked up with a couple of missionaries—my sister and brother-in-law. Small world.