Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Track Tales Tuesday: Nothing for Christmas

Believe it or not, it's Christmas again. Every year the holiday season and it's cultural overhaul seems to appear fast and disappear even faster. It's like New Found Glory says on their song Nothing for Christmas, "December comes in a flash then it's gone."

Perhaps the most controversial part of the culture of Christmas is the music. When's too early to start hearing it? What versions of the classic songs are the best? Hell, what are the classic songs? It seems right to start playing Christmas songs right after Thanksgiving, maybe even after Santa's sleigh slides by at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Pressing play then would only give you about 30 days or so with the unique set of songs though. Of course, many people would say 30 days is too many with such an annoying playlist.

I'm not one of the people who finds Christmas music annoying, though I understand the objection. Something about the style is so inoffensive and indifferent. There is almost always a lack of passion in songs that purport to portray the heartbeat of the average American. It's one of the main reasons I prefer pop punk to plain pop. Predictably, I feel the same way during the holiday season.

Nothing for Christmas by New Found Glory is the lead track on Fearless Record's latest installment of their Punk Goes... compilation, Punk Goes Christmas, and captures everything I feel about the holiday and how it fits into life in general. New Found Glory is my favorite band for a reason. Their unabashed enjoyment of life and their genre is at the forefront of their music which carries the lyrical undertone of fighting for belonging in friendships and romantic entanglements. Their song on this compilation is no different. In the second verse they pinpoint the underlying yearning of the season:
I think back to when I was younger
when everyone's together and I want you more now than ever
to not think about our troubles
No matter where you're living, you're supposed to return "home for the holidays." It's a season built on the concept of togetherness. You're not really going home though. You're chasing the feelings you associated with home when growing up. If you live somewhere for 11 months and 26 days a year, that place is home, not where you go to eat a feast, unwrap some presents, and reconnect with loved ones. I'm not saying there is no value to Christmas visits. There is and I don't know what exactly that value  is for you because I don't know what feelings you associate with the place you grew up. I only know what feelings I associate and that's what New Found Glory gets.

This year is the first I won't be going back to Massachusetts for Christmas. For the first time in 30 years, I won't be spending the holiday with my parents. If you step back and think about it for a second, it should be pretty disconcerting to do something 29 years in a row and then stop on the 30th. While I don't remember a lot from being really young, I still remember most of those 29 years. They were a lot different than I know the next 29 are going to be.
And I think back through fall, and the summer
and how it changed everything.
Let's walk through snow in the winter
and forget about our troubles
Snow not withstanding because I live in Southern California these days, I've changed a lot over the summer and fall. My brother who's a year younger than me got married in August. It was basically a big family reunion which allowed me to step back and look at my place in it in a way I never have before. This Fall I've come to realize I've never felt that togetherness. I'm not saying that I've been a perpetual outsider in my family, just that I've felt that way. It's surely why New Found Glory's music resonates with me so strongly, as their chorus on this song does:
Christmas is coming, so don't buy me nothing.
I got what I wanted, I got what I needed.
And Christmas is coming, so don't buy me anything.
I got what I wanted, I got what I needed, it's you, it's you, it's you.
When I heard that hook for the first time I immediately thought of my girlfriend and how I asked her not to buy me anything for Christmas. In lieu of spending the holiday with our families, we're taking a trip to Las Vegas to spend time away from everyone else and with each other. I asked her not to buy anything because things aren't what I want or need right now. Her money would be better spent on herself. What I want, I need, is to be here with her focusing on enjoying myself and figuring out where to go next. That's what Christmas means to me this year. That's what New Found Glory gets.

For the first time in my adult life I'm starting to feel present, and that's the only present I need.

(Punk Goes Christmas features songs from All Time Low, one of the most underrated bands in the world, genre up-and-comers Man Overboard and Real Friends, and veterans Yellowcard. Most of the songs hit the perfect balance of pop punk and Christmas.)

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