'I don't believe just 'cos ideas are tenacious it means they are worthy,'' sings Tim Minchin his tender 2009 ode to a typical Australian family christmas, White Wine In The Sun.
Minchin was singing about church hymns with their ''dodgy'' lyrics. But he might as well have been referring to the annual mall-to-wall assault of traditional Christmas songs piped at us in department stories, supermarkets, restaurants, on radio, in elevators, on escalators - just about any public space wired to forcibly cheer people up en masse.
Don't get me wrong, Christmas carols are cheerful, sweet and have their place. The Coogee Carols, for instance, or anywhere people opt into a festive singalong. Children love them too, reason enough for their existence. But do you know why kids love singing carols? Because the songs are still new to them.
But after hearing Jingle Bells so many times that it morphs into a trilling earworm, you begin to suspect it would come in handy at Guantanamo Bay if terrorists ever developed a strategy to counter water torture. Likewise Away in a Manger, Deck the Halls, Good King Wenceslas, The 12 Days of Christmas, Silent Night …
''Siiiiiiiiiilent Niiiiight, hoyyyyyyyyyly niiiiight. Aaaaaall is calm … '' No it's not. All is pretty damn testy actually, as we navigate heaving, stressed crowds desperately searching for something for relatives who claim ''anything will do'', when we know that's just not true. It's time retailers overhauled their Christmas playlists, and ushered in a fresh set of December standards. We need Christmas songs for a secular society, which we can find emotional resonance in and make us stop and think - accept our dysfunctional relationships but appreciate the importance of family and friends.
Maybe they could make us laugh once in a while, too?
Good christmas music is out there - it's been out there for nearly 60 years: Elvis (1957), Ella Fitzgerald (1967) and Phil Spector (1963) each made excellent christmas albums. Spector produced A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Record, and he had the foresight to include four songs by Darlene Love, whose seminal Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) has produced many excellent covers by artists as diverse as REM, U2, Joey Ramone and Death Cab for Cutie, although none beat Love's original. Each year since 1986 (bar one) Love has sung it on David Letterman's talk show before Christmas (and does again Saturday night, New York time).
The Pogues, Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon all made Christmas songs that became bonafide classics. And they're still being made. In recent years Weezer, Train, Florence and the Machine and Dashboard Confessional have either written fine Christmas originals, or reinterpreted classics in a way that made them work as good songs in their own right. Benji and Joel Madden's new charity single, Let the World Be Still, strikes the right notes, too. Of course, new doesn't mean better - witness Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta's I Think You Might Like It. We reckon you might hate it. But that's a strong word at this time of year, so better to focus on some songs you can love.
So here are our suggestions for a Christmas playlist that won't drive you crackers.
Santa Baby, Eartha Kitt
2000 Miles, the Pretenders
White Wine in the Sun, Tim Minchin
Happy Xmas (War is Over), John Lennon
Fairytale of New York, the Pogues with Kirsty MCcoll
How to Make Gravy by Paul Kelly
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), Darlene Love (or Death Cab for Cutie)
Last Christmas, Wham! (but preferably Florence and the Machine)
Christmas in Hollis, Run DMC
Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End), the Darkness
The Only Gift That I Need, Dashboard Confessional
This Time Of Year, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Bruce Sringsteen
Santa Claus is Back in Town, Elvis Presley
Merry Christmas Everybody, Slade
A Great Big Sled, the Killers
Alone This Holiday, the Used
A Christmas Song, Weezer
Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight), the Ramones
Shake up Christmas, Train