Hokey for the Holidays

Christmas CDs are as unpredictable as the seasons, but a few find character of their own -- somehow

All packages need a ribbon, and this gaggle of Kriss Kringle offerings has one in 'Tis The Season for Los Straitjackets, an absolutely delightful collection of 13 Christmas instrumentals by that handful of masked master musicians known far and wide in Mexican wrestling circles as Los Straitjackets. Anybody who knows their rock history to any degree will be quick to see how these holly-jolly guys borrow snippets of Ventures, Chantays, Shadows and other great guitar bands to craft new versions of well-roasted holiday chestnuts. The intro to "La Bamba" leads into "Feliz Navidad," there's a mambo version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and "Pipeline" runs perfectly into "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen." There's also that damn inescapable "Little Drummer Boy," but at least these guys have the good taste to make it sound like a Link Wray spaghetti western theme. The album ends with a perfectly pretty grind-dance version of "The Christmas Song," with all the sweetness and none of the yuck.

Christmas, like life, is a sweet and sour affair -- with the volume turned all the way up. With luck, some of these records will do what's required of them and prevent the casual listener from being dragged, kicking and screaming, into sugarplum fairy land -- and perhaps make it possible to believe more and blaspheme less, at least for a few weeks.

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