Gifts for the music fan in your life
Apparently, there was a time when figuring out what to ask for at Christmas wasn’t nearly as difficult as it is today. Popular lore has it that you simply waited until the Sears catalogue hit the front steps, and then started feverishly leafing through the toy section. Today, everything is considerably more complicated. Fire up Google and punch in “balls and a bat”, and you know what comes up? A goddamn picture of a leathery-winged rodent with an erection, that’s what. Which is admittedly better than a shot of Ron Jeremy displaying his junk while wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers shirt.
With so many things out there to choose from on the not-fit-for-human-eyes Intraweb, we figured you could probably use some help in the gift-idea department. Below, you’ll find can’t-miss items for under the tree, designed to appeal to everyone from fans of cheesecake pop to burnouts obsessed with long-haired rock. Feel free to thank us with a Marshall fridge, mostly because it’s going to go great with the Marshall stack you already put under the tree for us at the beginning of December.
Sonos Play:1 Speaker
It’s a problem as old as Mick Jagger: you want to lie in the bathtub listening to Pink Floyd’s The Wall in full symphonic stereo, but the main hi-fi system is three floors down in your state-of-the-art rumpus room. Enter the Sonos Play:1 speaker (above). The big draw, besides the fact that it’s wireless and small with a deceptively big sound, is the price tag: namely, $219 before taxes at big-budget retailers like Best Buy. That means—assuming you don’t end up being electrocuted—you won’t feel like killing yourself after you accidentally knock the unit into the tub while wildly playing air guitar to the solo in “Comfortably Numb”.
Katy Perry’s Killer Queen
Let’s face it: the marriage of Katy Perry and Russell Brand was set to self-destruct right from the start. He’s a renowned former heroin Hoover and self-described sex addict, she’s the daughter of Pentecostal pastors. And while he’s now spouting vague revolutionary jargon to anyone who will listen, she’s busy glamorizing off-with-their-heads monarchy. If Brand ever put his name on a fragrance, it would probably smell like weed, burnt leather, and sweaty sex. Perry’s latest perfume—her third, after the presumably pussy-scented Purr and Meow!—is called Killer Queen, and it has top notes of dark plum, wild berries, and bergamot; middle notes of red velvet flower, rainbow plumeria, and natural jasmine sambac; and bottom notes of cashmeran, natural patchouli heart, and liquid praline. And, no, we don’t have any idea what most of those things smell like.
In Utero Boxed Set
Nevermind was the record that launched a pop-music revolution, with armies of hair-metal bands wiped out before you could say “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Hard-core Nirvana fans, however, will rightly argue that In Utero was truly Kurt Cobain’s masterwork, playing out like one tortured man’s extended suicide note. (How horrifically brilliant is “Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld/So I can sigh eternally”?) This year marks the 20th anniversary of the release of In Utero, a record that major label executives originally believed to be unlistenable, as much for Steve Albini’s stripped-raw production job as for art-damaged sonic scabs like “Scentless Apprentice”. The record remains as powerful today as it was when it was released. What you get here is over 70 tracks, including remixes, unreleased demos, and live takes, as well as a 56-page book featuring extensive liner notes, handwritten lyrics, and rare photos. There’s also a poster to tack up on your bedroom wall, just like you did when you were terminally depressed at 15 and marvelling at how the “Serve the Servants” line “I tried hard to have a father/But instead I had a dad” summed up your miserable life better than anything ever written by Warrant.
SOL Republic Master Tracks XC Headphones
It’s finally time to retire that pair of Koss Pro4AAs you’ve had since Grade 9. You know, the ones that are one piece of duct tape away from disintegrating, and that somehow only work on the left channel when you hold the cord just right. Dark Side of the Moon might have sounded spectacular through them back when they actually worked, but the time has come to admit that their heyday is long over. What you need are Sol Republic’s new Master Tracks XC headphones, “studio tuned” by Calvin Harris. Actually, you probably don’t need them at all, unless, like Harris, you’re producing a track for Rihanna or remixing Florence & the Machine. These babies are precision-tooled for use by professional producers and studio engineers, so plugging them into your iPod is a little like using an M1 Abrams tank to drive down to the grocery store. But you know what? “Us and Them” would sound absolutely killer through these beauties.
One Direction Singing Harry Doll
It’s destined to end up in the same forlorn corner of your pretween’s bedroom closet that is currently home to last year’s Talking Justin Bieber, but Hasbro’s Singing Harry Doll ought to keep her (or him, we’re not judging) occupied for a month or two. All of the other Directioners have been immortalized in polyvinyl chloride as well, of course, but we chose to focus on Harry Styles because the improbable architecture of his hairy styles is a source of endless fascination for us. (Also, his name lends itself to cheap puns.) The Hasbro website informs us that the Harry doll sings “What Makes You Beautiful” “just for you!”. Well, he only sings 30 seconds of it, so he must not think you’re that beautiful. Each figure is 12 inches, because in doll world, all five members of One Direction are exactly the same height, which works out pretty well for Niall “Pee-wee” Horan but not so much for the other guys.
The Clash Sound System boxed set
Bad news for fans of Cut the Crap: Mick Jones continues to pretend that the sixth and final studio album bearing the name of the Clash never happened. Fair enough; after all, the 1985 LP was Joe Strummer and Bernie Rhodes’s limp attempt to keep the band going after Jones’s ejection. Even Strummer subsequently disowned the record. This means that the new Sound System boxed set is not a complete document of the Only Band That Matters. Looking on the bright side, Cut the Crap is, indeed, mostly crap, and is hardly essential listening. Sound System, which is packaged like a camo-painted boom box, does include all the other albums, plus three CDs of extras, a DVD, and a bunch of dog tags and stickers and other junk you’ll look at once and then forget about. With remastering overseen by Jones himself, the songs reportedly sound amazing, although we can’t say for sure because no one could be bothered to send us a copy.
AC/DC Premium Lager
Truth be told, AC/DC probably could have gone in a more imaginative direction than the one it took for its official entry into the ultra-competitive suds market. Imagine how great it would be to pop the top on a Thunderstruck Ale. Or a Sink the Pink Raspberry Porter. Or a Highway to Hell Hefeweizen. What the band has chosen to roll out, however, is the simply titled AC/DC Premium Lager. Despite AC/DC being known as Australia’s greatest export this side of Crocodile Dundee and that Mad Max guy who’s always yelling at his wife, no one’s going to confuse this product with the kangaroo piss known as Foster’s. Instead, AC/DC beer is a surprisingly tasty German-style brew with a standard five-percent alcohol kick delivered in 500-mL cans. For optimum hard-rock points, don’t forget to cue up “Have a Drink on Me” right when the wrapping paper comes off.
Crosley traveler turntable
Any fool can show up to a party with a home-burned CD or a fully loaded iPod and proceed to take over the stereo system. Truly cool kids, however, know that for making an impression, nothing beats vinyl. The problem is that not every home has a turntable, which can leave you standing in the middle of a living room with a stack of Kurt Vile 7-inch singles and no place to play them. Problem solved in a big way with the Crosley Traveler record player, which comes in the kind of retro-themed suitcase that hasn’t been seen since Fuller Brush salesmen stopped going door-to-door. Once you pop the top, it’s all there: needle, turntable platter, speakers, and three speeds for when you’re flipping from that prized “Holiday in Cambodia” 45 to Johnny Cash’s Ballads of the American Indian on 33 and 1/3, to that 78 rpm version of Glen Gray & the Casa Loma Orchestra’s Live At The Rainbow Room NYC March/April 1936. Best of all, when some beardo tries to commandeer the turntable with a copy of Black Lips’ Arabia Mountain on 180-gram vinyl, you can simply pack up your Crosley and go home. Or head to the Rumpus Room on Main and set up at the bar with that copy of Slow’s Against the Glass you liberated from your dad’s vinyl stash in the attic.
M.I.A. x Versus by Versace
Wrap your head around this: when Versace tapped M.I.A. to create a collection for Versus, the singer-rapper also known as Mathangi Arulpragasam reportedly drew inspiration from bootleg Versace streetwear. In other words, she wanted her designs to look like cheap knockoffs, even though they are the genuine article. Whether you consider that to be subversively ironic or just crass, you can’t deny that M.I.A.’s Versus pieces—which range in price from US$195 for leggings to US$495 for a unisex shirt—are as eye-catching as any of her album art or videos. With bold, all-over graphics (which include subtle M.I.A. logos), these pieces are not for wallflowers. Stroll down Robson decked out head to toe in retina-searing gold-and-black patterns, and you’re essentially giving passersby implicit permission to stare.
Until those Lotto Max numbers come up, giving that rock ’n’ roll gearhead on your Christmas list a Marshall stack is probably going to be a little outside ye olde budget. On the next-best-thing front is the Marshall fridge, which is—quite awesomely—made to look like the favourite amp of Slash, Jimi Hendrix, and Slayer’s Kerry King. We’re talking genuine Marshall logos on the amp and cabinet, grille cloth, and the famous brass faceplate. Know someone in a band? Give ’em one of these babies—stocked with Clutch Dark Sour Ale or Motörhead Bastards Lager—and you can take pride in knowing you’ve done your part to get them two steps closer to the kind of alcohol problems that turn ordinary artists into tortured piss-tanks. Why bother getting the roadies to fetch you another mid-set half-sack when you can clandestinely pop open the fridge door while pretending to adjust the EQ levels on your rig for “Free Bird”?