The Geocities-esque internet of Hypnospace Outlaw is silly fun until you see the tragedy beneath the surface, so it’s fitting that the game produced one of the all-time-great Christmas heartbreak songs. Last year its washed-up rocker, The Chowder Man, gave us the present of Christmas Pain In Christmas Town – a straight banger with a delightful music video. I wept, and vowed to listen every Christmastime. I guess I’m not asking you if it’s too early in the Christmas season to cry to this song as much as I’m telling you I already have.
The Chowder Man is played by real musician Hot Dad, who recorded a number of songs in Hypnospace Outlaw, and here he’s joined by Dave Pino on guitar. The song was released as a surprise Christmas gift, with a video directed by Hypnospace creator Jay Tholen.
Like a lot of Hot Dad’s music, Christmas Pain In Christmas Town is great for being ludicrous (especially with that video) yet touching. It balances stumbling awkwardness (even the song name makes me laugh) and horniness (oh I bet he wants to “slide down your chimney” with “tenderness and compassion” alright) with heartfelt expressions that cut through the goofs, like: “Bottle in my hand, try to drink it away / The snow is falling down, I’m so cold and afraid.” Damn, Chowder Man. He has a real tragic arc in the game too. Maybe he’s not the most eloquent songsmith, but he’s real. And he can certainly write a tune; I still get chills when the chorus kicks in.
I love the run-up to Christmas. I love the lights, the music, and the food coming when the world is at its darkest (in Scotland we’re heading below 7 hours of daylight). Then expectations and absences catch up to me and punch me square in the heart, and I crumple to the floor. This song hits both those notes, earning its place in my Christmas. A friend once likened this to a Carly Rae Jepsen song and yeah, I’d love to hear her cover it. And yep, already cried to it. Several times. Weeks ago, even. After a year like this, I started Christmas in November.
You can also listen to Christmas Pain In Christmas Town on Bandcamp and Spotify too, along with the rest of The Chowder Man’s oeuvre. And if you like that, Hot Dad has a huge amount of non-Hypnospace music for you.
I have a few other annual Christmas gaming traditions. I’ve already played Skeal and will share more with you this month. I’m definitely using RPS to create Christmas traditions for other people through sheer force of will.