Letters to Cleo
It’s always fun to dive into the annual blitz of holiday releases, and this year’s eclectic pool includes OK Christmas, a four-song EP from Boston-based, ’90s alt-rock combo, Letters to Cleo. The short but sassy ’90s post-punk record features three covers and one original, and it’s sure to be a hit with fans. Founding guitarists Greg Mckenna and Michael Eisenstein as well as original drummer Stacy Jones and quirky, colorful front chick, Kay Hanley are all featured along with bassist Joe Klompus. The band’s renown, catchy, pop-hook sound has remained well-intact.
I simply love what the group did with the arrangement of The Kinks’ “Father Christmas.” While not straying too far from the original guitar-driven rocker that it is, they added their own punk angst with fierce guitar and a more defined, uptempo harmony in the chorus. The anti-gun lyric change is also a big winner: Can you melt down all the machine guns so kids are safe on the streets.
While no one in the band initially embraced covering Elvis Presley’s “If I Get Home On Christmas Day” (Tony Macaulay/John MacLeod), they all jumped on board after hearing a demo of Mckenna’s fresh take on it. What started as doleful morphed into a rockin’, upbeat, hopeful arrangement.
Paying homage to fellow Boston-area, garage-punk ’80s pioneers, The Dogmatics, Letters to Cleo does serious justice to “X-Mas Time (Sure Don’t Feel Like).” It was the band’s manager, Michael Creamer, who recommended the cover as a gift to fans as it throws in nods to Filene’s Basement and Kenmore Square. The spruced up, lively pop version is a real winner.
“I Miss You This Christmas” is the one original on the record, and it boasts the signature Letters to Cleo, ’90s sound that has become synonymous with the band.
If spunky, offbeat Christmas music is your thing, this definitely is one to add to your collection.