There’s no mistaking it, Christmas With Weezer might be comprised of Yuletide standards, but from the opening riff of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” it’s unquestionably a gift from the kings of nerd rock. Released on December 16, 2008, the six-song digital EP was initially conceived as an exclusive for the game Tap Tap Revenge, an iOS app on the iPod Touch (remember those?) and iPhones. Though Tap Tap Revenge, which was like Dance Dance Revolution for the fingers, had previously partnered with artists like Nine Inch Nails, The Chemical Brothers, and Daft Punk (and would go on to create a Lady Gaga edition, themed around The Fame), Weezer were the first artists to record music solely for the popular game.
An exception in the group’s catalog
Thanks to the quickly evolving intersection of music and technology, Christmas With Weezer also marked the first time that a group recorded songs specifically for listening to within an app that wasn’t a digital service provider (like iTunes or Spotify). However, due to an overwhelming response from fans following the release of Tap Tap Revenge’s Christmas With Weezer edition, the group decided to make the songs available to purchase on a wide basis, so that non-app users could enjoy the holiday goodness as well.
The idea of partnering with the game for exclusive content was conceived of by drummer Pat Wilson, who was an avid fan of the new iPhone, which was beginning to replace more rudimentary smartphone options like the Sidekick and the BlackBerry. In an unusual move for Weezer, Wilson not only laid down the songs’ drum tracks, but also recorded all the guitars himself, making Christmas With Weezer an exception in the group’s catalog. (Wilson would also play guitar for the majority of the group’s 2009 Troublemaker tour, with seasoned percussionist Josh Freese taking over drum duties.) To prep for the wide release of Christmas With Weezer later that month, the band went back into the studio to remix the songs, revising some of frontman Rivers Cuomo’s lead vocals and adding additional flourishes, including backing vocals from lead guitarist Brian Bell.
A sonic return
Though Christmas With Weezer was sandwiched in between Weezer’s “Red Album” and Raditude – both poppier outliers in the band’s catalog – the festive collection offered a sonic return to the classic “Blue Album” era, much to the delight of many fans.
For the digital Christmas outing, Weezer covered six classic holiday tracks: “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” “O Holy Night,” “The First Noel,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Silent Night” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The latter was the only track to be made available on a physical release, when it appeared on a CD compilation the following year: JDRF’s Hope For The Holidays, which benefited the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation.
Though the album’s arrangements are fairly straightforward, staying true to the songs’ lyrics and melody lines, Weezer applies their signature guitar-driven power-pop to each of the songs. Short and sweet, the EP clocks in at just around 15 minutes.
Christmas With Weezer followed only one other holiday effort by the group, a 2000 radio promo (and fan club exclusive) which was simply called Christmas CD, and which featured two original tracks by the band, “The Christmas Song” and “Christmas Celebration.” The two songs were also briefly reissued as Winter Weezerland, an iTunes exclusive released in 2005.
Though only six songs long, Christmas With Weezer was a welcome digital stocking-stuffer for the band’s fans. Year after year, it adds just the right amount of edge to any holiday playlist.