It’s that sweet, simple time of the year when we spend every waking second trying to balance expected holiday benevolence and cheer with crippling anxiety, depression, and existential dread (especially this year). Where we spend as much time complaining about crowded shopping malls as we do sulking inside them, clumping from store to store in soaked boots, scarf dangling limply down to the ground, sweating because it’s freezing outside but a goddamn sauna in the mall (and we don’t want to stay long enough to take off our coat). All the while, our exploits are soundtracked by Michael Bublé, Bing Crosby, and, god forbid, Alvin and the Chipmunks.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can at least suffer in mile-long lineups with a semi-smile on our face if we treat ourselves to The Killers’ outrageous southwestern Christmas songs.
The Las Vegas-based Springsteen-fetishists have been churning out original, anthemic, anti-Christmas Christmas songs for the past decade, culminating this year with a compilation of all 10 singles, plus a duet with singer Brandon Flowers’ fourth grade teacher. Ranging from goofy to depressing to cheese-ball nostalgic to kind of creepy, the band’s sardonic Christmas compositions offer a refreshing alternative to the deluge of saccharine sentimentalism that’s fucking up your carefully-branded nihilism this holiday season.
Here are the best Christmas songs written by a Mormon rock star from Sin City.
5. “I Feel It In My Bones” (2010)
Certainly the most dystopian (and groove-laced) entry in The Killers’ Christmas canon, “I Feel It In My Bones” finds Flowers pleading with long-time agonizer Santa Claus to have mercy on him and his wicked ways: “Hey Kringle! You mean to say when you were young you never got wild?” Santa ain’t having it, though: “Kid, don’t you get it? I’m gonna make an example out of you for every mother’s child.” Sounding like it was ripped from an ’80s sci-fi show soundtrack, the track is the perfectly distressing mood-setter at Christmas dinner!
4. “Boots” (2011)
From chilling to cheesy, the band switched gears in 2011 for a lavish dabble in nostalgic waters (par for the course for a band with a hit called “When You Were Young”). The chorus doesn’t disappoint, as Flowers recalls Christmas with his family: “I can see my mother in the kitchen, my father on the floor/Watching television, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.'” The music video queues up a clip from that same 1946 Christmas film at the beginning, so you know you’re in for a tear-jerking emotions-fest. Toss on this lazy acoustic rambler for a warm throwback to when you didn’t hate this time of year.
3. “Dirtsledding” (2015)
Continuing the narrative on “I Feel It In My Bones,” “Dirtsledding” finds Santa and The Killers frontman burying the hatchet. Santa laments his aggressive hate of Flowers, apologizing, “Your nice status was renewed/Just tell Santa what you want/I’m gonna make your dreams come true.” Flowers isn’t convinced at first: “Cheap shit smile and one-inch fuse/You hurt me Santa and I’m confused.” Check out the video for a weird, dirty desert Christmas party, complete with a rip through the Vegas desert in that coveted Red Porsche 944.
2. “Don’t Shoot Me, Santa” (2007)
This is where it all began: the beginning of the Flowers vs. Claus trilogy. Flowers had been pretty naughty this particular year, confessing, “Oh Santa, I’ve been killing just for fun.” Santa isn’t a particularly forgiving figure, though, is he? Actually, judging by the fact that he has a kind of ethical no-fly list, he’s pretty vindictive: “Well the party’s over, kid, cause I got a bullet in my gun.” In the video, Santa has Flowers tied to a chair with tinsel, and digs his grave before preparing to execute him. This is the Christmas content we came here for.
1. “Christmas In L.A.” (2013)
Arguably the most depressing Christmas song ever written, “Christmas In L.A.” is also their best. The Killers’ didn’t go the overwrought, heartbroken, relationship-dissolution route of “Last Christmas” with their 2013 single, instead opting for a raw, gutting admission of personal and professional failure and desperation. The acoustic ballad, which features country rockers Dawes, details the trials of a burn-out wanna-be actor living in Los Angeles, and not getting very far: “Don’t know if I can take another Christmas in L.A./Another pitcher of sangria in an empty beach café/Another casting call on Thursday for a job that doesn’t pay.” It’s as depressing as it is relatable for anyone who’s away from home during the holidays and feeling like they’re treading water, going nowhere: “My parents sent a Christmas card and tennis shoes/’We understand you staying, and we’re proud of you.'” It will almost certainly make you want to get hammered under the Santa Monica pier by yourself. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Check out the music video to see Owen Wilson having a really terrible time.