Evolution Review: Bend Sinister – Cold as Santa (Naughty or Nice)

Well now that you won’t be hearing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” on most stations in Vancouver (and that’s a conversation for a whole different time), that just means you have to find another song to get you into that festive Christmas spirit. So obviously, Bend Sinister is your clear fist option for all your musical holiday needs.

Yes, your read correctly. Bend Sinister. Turns out the alternative,  indie rock band from Vancouver has released a new Christmas song, and just in time to add to your playlist for your holiday parties. The fascinating aspect of the song is that it directly takes Foreigner’s classic “Cold as Ice,” and manages to infuse it with some Christmas spirit. And just to clarify, it’s not like Bend Sinister uses it as a quick sample or a subtle hint to allude to it. Strictly on the composition aspect, there is no musical originality to it. I truly mean a direct copy and paste. Essentially, they made a Christmas song out of an epic classic rock anthem and all its glory that was never intended to double as a Christmas tune.

So what is the result? Well, you get “Cold as Santa (Naughty or Nice),” making it perhaps one of the weirdest concept for a Christmas song that leaves you confused, yet also intrigued (or maybe not, I don’t know you or your Christmas music tastes).

Right at the beginning there’s no hiding the Foreign influence. They grab your attention instantly with the sound of the signature stylistic piano chord progression from the original, but topped with classic Christmas sleigh bells to establish that you are not listening to Foreigner (so I guess technically there was a difference on the composition aspect). Also spoiler alert – everything stylistically is the same. They keep the guitar solo, the instrumentation articulation the vocals in the background that act as a four-part choral-like arrangement.

And then Daniel Moxon starts singing, and just adds to the overall mentality of “WTF I am listening too?”

He’s as cold as ice / Santa Claus is coming to town tonight / Hang your Christmas lights / Tuck in the kids real tight / Ho Ho!

Then immediately it goes into (and again I stress this is still all under Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice”) the opening lyrics of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Yes. As if it couldn’t get any more bizarre, the band incorporates a pre-existing Christmas standard… over top a classic rock song… that’s been transformed into a Christmas song.

Now as I reflect on what I’ve written, it completely sounds as if I’m ripping into this song for lacking originality – which is true to some degree. However, what lacks in strictly musical originality, gets made up with its originality as a Christmas song.

I admit, I’m no expert when it comes to Christmas repertoire. In fact, I loathe Christmas music in general. I don’t care that your love life is dictated by hanging foliage, songs about mutated reindeer and snowman, the unnecessary number of songs about bells, and that overuse reminder that Santa Claus is coming to town. Christmas is December 25th. Everyone knows that’s when he comes to town. It’d redundant. Plus if you don’t own a calendar, every mall display will remind you of that by shoving it down your throat with displays, signs, and the copious amount of red and green decorations.

But I found it so refreshing, quirky, and oddly smart – something that I appreciate the most in any musician. They were able to essentially take the first opening line (“You’re as cold as ice”), and structure those five words around creating a new Christmas-themed song. Whenever a new and modern Christmas song is created, I find that overtime they all start to lose that “Christmas Magic” they preach in their lyrics (and yes, I think my eyes even rolled back when I typed that). The point is, most new Christmas songs all start to merge into one colossus Christmas monster of song. Originality is lacking with concepts and themes being carried over between each other. I mean my God, how many goddamn lovey-dovey sleigh rides do I have to listen too? Who the hell even goes on a sleigh rides? Certainly not anywhere in Metro Vancouver… okay, maybe Chilliwack.

For me, it was as if Sinister Bend wanted to create a Christmas song that was different, but also not taking it too seriously and follow that modern route I mentioned earlier. It’s a fun and creative way of making a modern Christmas song – the idea alone of basing it off a musical source that has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas.

Now yes, I completely understand those who think the song “ruins” the essence of the original – and if that is your opinion I encourage you to continue to believe it (I don’t expect this to change anyone’s mind). And it’s not like this is going to immediately challenge Mariah Carey for the title of greatest Christmas song of all time. But what I can appreciate is a Canadian act using Christmas as a musical platform, but changing it up so that it doesn’t sound like every other Christmas song in your iTunes library.

Overall, it’s a refreshing take on modern Christmas standards (oxymoron much) that will get your attention right off the bat, and whether or not you are a fan of the band, the song, or Christmas in general,  I hope you can appreciate that Christmas music doesn’t have to be the same, blasé stylistic songs we’ve had to endure every late November to December.

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