Five-Minute Record Reviews: Kelly Clarkson, Arcade Fire, Toby Keith, Nick Lowe And, Sigh, The Robertson Family!

Kelly Clarkson - Wrapped In Red

I'm still trying to get over the fact that Clarkson needed the assistance of 14 DIFFERENT PRODUCERS to make her last album, Stronger, which sought to portray her as, you know, a strong and independent woman and all that other bullshit used to make her fans feel like they're not being hornswoggled by an industry bent on, well, hornswoggling them for fun and profit.

See, if Kelly wasn't in on it, she wouldn't be releasing a holiday album of the same old played-out songs ("Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", "Blue Christmas", "White Christmas" and so on) mixed with a handful of innocuous original Christmas songs penned by Clarkson and those ever-present co-writers who do the grunt work while she reads a magazine (aka "The Avril Lavigne Method" of co-writing).

See, the only reason Clarkson is writing her own Christmas songs is for the ROYALTIES generated year-in and year-out by holiday albums.  Just by having her rag-tag tunes associated with the likes of Irving Berlin and Rodgers & Hammerstein means that she will continue to see royalties on this record well into her golden years.

The one saving grace is that she covers an Imogen Heap song, "Just For Now", which means Heap will get a nice chunk of change, too and that's not all bad.  It's still a completely forgettable and by-the-numbers album that doubles as a cure for insomnia.

Arcade Fire - Reflektor

It pains me to say this, but the most listenable, groundbreaking artist of the modern age is not an overly-entitled hip hop messiah with undiagnosed autism, but, rather, a seven-piece band from Canada, which is weird because, last time I checked, only mediocre crap comes from Canada.  Cruel, I know, but it's true.

Ah, but these savvy Canucks have obviously been studying their Clash and Talking Heads records all these years.  While that isn't enough to make them original, it at least makes Arcade Fire that much more entertaining as we play "Name That Influence" while the album plays.

There's the Bowie influence sprinkled throughout the title cut, the Clash-style guitars on "We Exist", Wall Of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio" crossed with reggae Clash and unleashed upon the world "Flashbulb Eyes", and so on.  It's all nice sounding and all, but what's the point?

Duck The Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas

My god, please make it stop.  It's bad enough most of us that have never seen an episode of Duck Dynasty can't go anywhere without seeing the results of some overly ambitious product manager stuck with the responsibility of slapping those fucking cheesy beards on everything from body pillows to notebooks to coffee mugs to eyeglass frames to, sigh, holiday albums.

Those who might actually be interested in purchasing this album can either pay full price now or 25 cents next summer when all this Duck Dynasty crap starts showing up at every yard sale on the block, thereby revealing our neighbors as complete morons.

Toby Keith - Drinks After Work

The only thing you need to know about this album is that he covers "Margaritaville".  With Sammy Hagar.

Nick Lowe - Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All The Family

Considering that his label (Yep Roc Records) roped him into this one kicking and screaming, Nick came up with a real fun romp through original holiday tunes ("Christmas At The Airport" and "A Dollar Short Of Happy") that alternate between painful and humorous - sometimes within the same tune - little-known traditional holiday tunes, and ambitious reworkings of holiday favorites that come off sounding fresh and new, which is hard to do with "Silent Night", but damn if he doesn't pull it off.  I never thought I'd be reviewing a Nick Lowe Christmas album, but it is no coincidence that it was the most enjoyable album I reviewed this week.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility


  1. I agree with this post although I don't totally hate Kelly Clarkson. It's not great by any stretch but at least it is a new set of Christmas song.
    Arcade Fire is a good band.
    Also, the "make it stop" comment on the Duck Dynasty Christmas Album made me laugh.

  2. Unlike Irving Berlin or Rodgers & Hammerstein, if anybody is singing even just one of Kelly's NEW Xmas songs 50 years from now, I will gladly pay you ten bucks and say I was wrong. Thankfully, I will be dead.