REVIEW: The Long Awaited Review of A Certain Wizard Rock Christmas Compilation Album

This review has been a long time coming.  A VERY long time coming.  I’ve had my copy for about a month now, maybe longer, and while I’d already listened to it, and had tons of thoughts all lined up in my head, something happened.  WROCKSTOCK HAPPENED. And I’ve been barely keeping on top of that, so any planned album reviews were thrown by the wayside.  But now that it’s apparently officially the Christmas season (even though for me that doesn’t begin until December 1st…), it seems that I cannot push the inevitable back any more.  Don’t worry, we still have the last dregs of Wrockstock to talk about, and those will be resuming after this.  Think of this article as a holiday special interrupting your usual Jeopardy schedule.  And now, without any further ado, my review of a certain holiday-themed wizard rock compilation album.

I am of course talking about A Magical Christmas of Magic, which is not just the first Christmas wrock compilation album, but also the first wrock compilation album, ever.

This album is really quite interesting as a historical document – it’s the first wizard rock compilation, ever, it’s rather early in wrock’s life (2005), it features Harry and the Potters as multiple personas, and the very first song officially released by The Whomping Willows and Draco and the Malfoys.  So, those interested in the history of wizard rock and its beginnings should definitely consider purchasing this album purely for the historical and “gotta collect ’em all” aspects of it.  However, should one buy it for, you know, the musical aspects of it?  Let’s find out.

We start off the album with Dumbledore, making this the first appearance of the hip-hop side project of Harry and the Potters, as well as the very first wiz-hop song EVER MADE.  Expect to hear the phrase “very first” a lot in the next thousand words.  Anyway, “Drop The Needle, It’s Christmas” starts out as… just okay.  I mean, from the beginning, wizard rock was a joke, and wiz-hop even more so.  It wasn’t until fairly recently that people started to take it seriously (or at least as seriously as one could take hip-hop music about a dorky guy with glasses who defeats the ultimate evil by going on a fetch quest), so often older wiz-hop is “funny because it exists”, like really early wizard rock.  Also, the songs on this album are among the first that these artists made, and just as how I won’t nitpick to death smaller bands today, I do the same for bands that are huge today but were just starting out back then.

Still, the fact that what is ostensibly supposed to be rap doesn’t always rhyme stickles my burs a bit.  But the hook “There’s never too many socks for Christmas” at 0:40 is pretty fun, and at 1:40 when Joe (I think?) stops sing-talking along with the beat and starts actually rapping, it gets pretty damn good, especially for 2005 wiz-hop.  Dumbledore improved a lot between 2005’s “Drop The Needle, It’s Christmas”, and 2007’s Lemon Drop… The Beat, but you can definitely see the spark there, and the middle section of the song is legitimately fun and danceable.

Next up is Draco and the Malfoy’s seminal Christmas hit, “All I Want for Christmas”, which also happens to be their very first recorded song.  The single fact that this song was on this album made it a must-own for me – I had long been trying to track down a non-live version of the song, and was surprised when I found it wasn’t on JS1 – I hadn’t thought about there being holiday comps before that one.  The thing about early Harry and the Potters is that their recorded stuff, in a word, sucks.  ESPECIALLY when you compare it with their live shit.  It’s just mellow as fuck and boring to listen to.  Now, they’ve definitely gotten better (Power of Love, The Enchanted Ceiling, and Scarred For Life are all very good), but it’s almost painful to listen to their early stuff.  The point of this tangent is to point out that even the very first Draco and the Malfoys song sounds like Draco and Malfoys.  Sure, they rock harder live – who doesn’t?  Well, besides MoM?  But this is the second-hardest rocking song on the album, and it holds up surprisingly well to their newer non-folk recorded stuff.  As for the song itself, you probably know it already, and if you don’t, do yourself a favor and youtube it.  It’s funny and fun, and the sustained note at the end is as impressive as it is self-mockingly humorous.  That’s really all I have to say about a song that was released five years ago and most of you have already heard at least a few times.

“Too Much Butterbeer” by Stubby Boardman is the longest song on the album, and is in that category of songs that’s really damn funny, but you only want to listen to it once.  It’s The Room of holiday-themed wizard rock charity compilation songs.  Wait, no, it’s not that funny. It’s the Sharktopus of holiday-themed et cetera et cetera.  But with less sharks.  And less octopus.  Octopi.  Anyway, there are some other songs on here that are credited to certain characters or groups that are just the DeGeorge brothers doing things from a different perspective, but for Stubby Boardman I just can’t tell if it’s theme, or a friend they roped into this.  Regardless, it’s funny as hell – it’s a drunk guy rambling over an acoustic guitar strumming the same chord over and over.  The song is about alcohol, and every now and then the word “Christmas” is dropped in there to justify its inclusion in the album.  My favorite part of the song is either when it goes “And this is when all the girls sing, they sing [in terrible falsetto voice]: ‘butterbeer’ – Oh, sounds so pretty with all the girls…”, or when he sings “And all the angels say ‘Stubby – will you get your hands of us?’ Too much butterbeer… Christmas… Too much firewhiskey…”  It’s the sort of song you listen to for a laugh while drunk, and then accidentally put it on single song repeat, and can’t figure out how to get it off of single song repeat because you’re too drunk, and up spending the rest of the night listening to it.  Not… that I have any personal… experience with such a thing… obviously…

“Meet Me Under The Mistletoe” is the first song on the album that is by Harry and the Potters as Harry and the Potters (featuring Harry and the Potters).  So, remember how earlier I said that early recorded HatP sucks?  Well, this song defies my words, with it’s fast and energetic beat and a really fun but criminally short saxophone solo.  It actually reminds me a lot of The Enchanted Ceiling, with a dash of Uncle Monsterface, and the instrumentals are reminiscent of the vocals of “Gryffindor Rocks”, which has a drum track that’s reminiscent of “The Wrath of Hermione” which is reminiscent of OH SNAP THIS SHIT’S GONE CYCLICAL! Anyway, it’s pretty damn catchy, and I’m a little surprised that I’d never heard it at all before – I think some of that might be because it’s basically a Harry/Ginny song and they already had the popular “Save Ginny Weasley From Dean Thomas”/”My Wizard Scar Still Burns For You” which also features a fun but short sax solo, and decided not to over-saturate the market, as it were.  Still, it’s a very fun song and definitely deserves checking out.

It’s very fitting that “Money for Christmas” is the shortest song on the album, since it’s sung by the The Gringotts Goblin Choir (geddit?).  It’s funny and short, and thus is in essence a condensed version of “Too Much Butterbeer”, but with a different vice being sung about.  And this time it’s definitely Paul and Joe pulling out ridiculous voices.  It’s a pretty witty song from the point of view of Goblins, not a race much touched upon by wizard rock (all I can think of is “The Goblins and the Wizards Should Be Friends” by The Gringott’s Grrrrls).  Aaand that’s pretty much all I have to say about that song.  Hey, come on, it’s 43 seconds long, whaddya want?

Next up is the very first Whomping Willows song, ever – “Seasonal Depression”.  So, five years later, how does the song that launched one of the few financially successful (by wrock standards at least) wizard rock careers hold up?  …Surprisingly well, actually.  I’m going to be honest, I’m not too well acquainted with Matt’s first album, beyond “I Killed My Owl” and “Your Flying Car”, but if any of it sounds like this song, I’ll have to check it out.  For a song called “Seasonal Depression” it fits the title very well – the sparse instrumental work (read: acoustic guitar) evokes feelings of winter without the lyrics, which is an admirable and tricky feat to accomplish.  Well, either that or it’s just because I get high before I write each article.  I’m going to go out on a limb here (ouch) and say that this is the song that Demons at the Helm was missing.  Either right after or in place of “All-Nighter”.  It would have had the Whomping-Willow-As-Metaphor-For-Matt’s-Personal-Angst touch that I really missed in that album, and it would have worked better as the down-tempo emotional nadir of the album than “All-Nighter”.

This song is also really interesting as both a shadow of things to come, and an example of some paths that have never been fully explored.  For example, flying cars are mentioned, and the fact that the Whomping Willow is a very angsty being has been explored rather thoroughly, but lines like “What was Dumbledore thinking when he made me?” makes me wish that such lines of reasoning had been explored in other Whompy songs – maybe get some BSG-esque ire at creators for giving one a life, but what life is this?  Having to view a collapsing star with these piggy eyes!  I want to feel the solar wind… wait, no, that’s something else.  Anyway, “Seasonal Depression” is a fascinating piece of history, as well as a damn fine piece of music.  This song has quickly jumped to my number two slot of songs I most want to hear Matt play live (Number one being, of course, “Fang, Stop Peeing On My Trunk”), and is also well, well worth a listen.

“In My Room of Requirement (It’s Always Christmas)” is by Cousin Wizardface, which is just Uncle Monsterface with a different name, because this branch of the multiverse is not cool enough to sustain two different chip-tune influenced punk bands with a penchant for sock puppets.  When this song rocks, it rocks hard.  It’s not the best Uncle Monsterface song ever (that would be either “Lobster Building” or “I’m sorry (but your princess is in another castle)”), but it’s pretty good nonetheless.  What interests me most about this song is the lyrical content, which is very interesting for what is basically a muggle band – it deals with the surprisingly mature themes of Harry just wanting to shut out the outside world, with its Dark Lords and prophecies and destinies and shit like that.  Combine that line of reasoning with a very fun chorus, and you can really see where he’s coming from.  Especially in the last minute, the energy of the song really amps up, with crashing drums, multiple vocal passes, and just a lot of really fun and bouncy stuff going on.  It’s not for people who listen only to wizard rock with voices like the MoM boys, RiddleTM, Oliver Boyd, etc., but if you can look past that and accept the sheer fun and energy of the song, you’ll have a good time.

I was surprised when I heard “I Need Some Mistletoe” by Neville Longbottom – I thought this was going to be one or both of the DeGeorges again with a stupid voice, but instead it was… someone.  No idea who.  As songs go, it’s only alright.  Not a song you’re going to listen to a lot.  But it does have some really good Neville lyrics – “Because the truth is that Neville Longbottom doesn’t get much mack from the laaaadies” and “Cuz I don’t wanna be just another kid that Harry Potter’s friends with”.  Also, for some reason, the guy singing even sounds like Neville Longbottom, from his vocal expressions to just the way his voice sounds.  Also, there’s a pretty catchy chorus that unfortunately is punctuated with this really damn annoying sound, as if the Yelling Bird from Questionable Content was fucking a rusty roomba whilst wearing sneakers on a newly waxed basketball floor.  Or something like that.

Last up, is another song from Harry and the Potters as Harry and the Potters.  “Christmas at Hogwarts” is… okay, and it’s the spiritual predecessor of “Snowy Owl”, at least in terms of the music.  It’s an aight song.  It’s almost a style parody of those sort of those “new holiday classics” that Bob Dylan or Tony Bennet or whoever is always shitting out – that is, until the last third of the song, where it becomes AWESOME.  It’s basically what you would get if you stuck “Felix Felicis”, “Phoenix Song”, and Santa in a blender and hit puree, served chilled, maybe garnished with a sprig of mint or something.  It’s about as legitimately epic as Harry and the Potters could be recorded until they made “Song for the Death Eaters”.  And somehow they made the line “It’s about spending the holidays with the ones you love” genuinely touching, where it would seem commercial and trite coming out of pretty much anyone else’s mouth.

And that’s what’s great about this album – this is one of the purest, most sincere expressions of holiday cheer in musical form I have come across in quite some time.  It often sounds like a group of friends just got over for a Christmas Eve jam session, and sometimes they rock and sometimes they’re slow, sometimes they’re silly, sometimes they’re somber, and sometimes they’re just drunk, but most of all, it seems authentic.  It’s not an album your great-aunt who grew up on Burl Ives is gonna like, but in a way it’s just as charming.  Also, it’s a very interesting piece of wizard rock’s history as it contains a lot of firsts, and is a first itself (first holiday wrock comp album, first wrock comp album, etc.).  Now, you can’t get it on iTunes, yet, but the DeGeorges STILL have some copies floating around, and it’s well worth your 8 bucks.  Actually, once they do put it on iTunes, it’s price will be automatically jacked up to nine bucks, so you’re doing yourself a favor buying it now, and you’ll get it in real life too, not just the intarwebz!

Speaking of which, the design of this album is really cool, the CD especially, which is a Christmas tree with lightning bolt garlands and a golden snitch at the top, right where the hole in the middle of the CD is.  Also, the liner notes contain a sarcastic reference to Draco and the Malfoys, which is fun, and it’s cute how everyone’s MySpaces are listed.  Oh, how quaint we were back then.  Final grade:

So, forgive me if I’ve been finding it harder and harder to quantify my feelings for a piece of music with a single letter.  Hell, I can barely get across a coherent summation with 2500 WORDS, let alone one letter…  And for some reason its easier for me to use pictures of a green-haired five-year old Japanese girl.  Because I’m cool like that.  Also, it just feels weird giving a hard and fast grade to a compilation album, especially one that came out five years ago, back when many, no, ALL of these bands were either in their youth, or quite literally just starting.  Also, don’t worry, Melissa, the real Jingle Spells 4 review is coming.  Spoiler alert: I didn’t not not not not hate it.  Also, I swear.  Probably.  Wrock Snob out.

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12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Brad Ausrotas
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 19:48:46

    Fabulous review of a fabulous album. Keep it real, Mr. Snob.

    Reply

  2. Whompy
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 23:40:03

    Great piece of writing, sir. Also, I’ll be performing Seasonal Depression at the Yule Ball this year, if you feel like taking a cross-country flight!

    Reply

    • wrocksnob
      Nov 28, 2010 @ 23:51:11

      Har-dee-har-har. I’m already having to sell three of my kidneys and one of my Martian child slaves just to pay for both LeakyCon 11 and Wrockstock 5 – I’m not giving up my remaining 4 kidneys, or Spikeljo, my Venetian (as in Venus, not Venice) child slave. Damn, it’s hard living in the 22nd century.

      Reply

  3. Brian Malfoy
    Nov 29, 2010 @ 06:42:53

    Great review! The Neville song is by a guy named Tony Gong, who performed it live at the first annual Boston Yule Ball in 2005.

    Reply

  4. Abby
    Nov 29, 2010 @ 10:24:57

    Wow. What a flashback. I think that was one if the first wrock CD’s I ever got.
    Was it really 5 years ago? Eek.

    Reply

  5. Paul
    Nov 29, 2010 @ 17:18:34

    Thanks for the sweet review.

    Just a couple comments for your readers. We’re not planning to ever put this album on iTunes. Stubby never granted us distribution rights beyond the original CD pressing, so we’re just gonna leave it at that (Fun fact: all the ethereal background sounds on the Stubby song are singing wine glasses and beer bottle flutes. It’s true, he told me.).

    Anyway, we have maybe 60 or 70 copies of this disc left and once it’s sold out, it will be gone for good. Digital purists are well advised that this baby is physical-only. Get your piece of wizard rock history now.

    Reply

  6. Brad
    Nov 29, 2010 @ 19:03:30

    Awesome review dude! I think I’m going to add some money to my paypal and order on asap.

    Reply

  7. Melissa Anelli
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 07:10:14

    I’m happy to swap a JS4 review for a review of AMCoM. 🙂

    But the JS4 copies are going out, WS! I expected your Having It Earlyness to warrant some bragging before everyone else is able to be like, ‘Yeah? SO WHAT? I have it too!’ Tsk, tsk!

    Reply

    • wrocksnob
      Nov 30, 2010 @ 10:28:47

      WROCKSTOCK, DUDE, WROCKSTOCK. It sort of got in the way of everything. But I expect the JS4 review to be up tonight or tomorrow. Might save it for tomorrow just for the whole “December 1st” thing.

      Reply

  8. Daisy
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 17:28:17

    Yes! This is probably, like, the first time I’ve even heard this album mentioned by anyone, at least more than just in passing. This really is a fun album–so glad you reviewed it!

    By the way, I loved the Cavil reference. Yesssssss.

    Reply

  9. Trackback: REVIEW: Jingle Spells 4 « The Wrock Snob

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