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HO HO WHO: You may know Trans-Siberian Orchestra as that enduring, proggy, anti-rock assembly that boasts an unforgivable ratio of three full-length albums about Christmas to two that aren’t about Christmas. (One is about Beethoven, and the other one is about castles.) Even Santa Claus is all, “Bro, y’all gotta chill with the Christmas records.” And even unabashed shill for Big Christmas Michael Bublé probably sees through TSO’s shameless holiday cash grab. The outfit was founded in 1993 by Sting and Madonna’s former tour promoter, Paul O’Neill, and his well-connected clique—-8 million albums sold, 9 million mid-level arena seats filled—-has returned this year with, you guessed it, another EP about Christmas.
STOCKINGS FULL OF CASH: TSO excels at melding values-based conservatism with a jagged disposition for hard rock, which most white men, regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum, seem to love. Then the ensemble throws in some half-assed angel-and-Virgin Mary imagery, and voila, popularity explained.
THE STALE GINGERBREAD: I’d rather take my mother-in-law to an ugly-sweater party full of vampire hipsters than sit through another TSO show. A warning to anyone who hasn’t gotten the memo: Trans-Siberian Orchestra seems like a pleasant date night on paper. But three years ago, my wife and I made the mistake of seeing TSO—-on blind faith alone—-at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, and it remains the only concert I’ve ever walked out of. One can only handle so many fables and overwrought, uncomfortably religious baritone narrators.
CHEER FACTOR: On a scale of holiday-party small talk with superiors to karaoke-bender after-parties, I give it two massive hangovers.