Queer poet and musician Caleb Nichols has delivered a just-in-time holiday gift for anyone who loves the Beatles.
The "Crimble Medley," from his new three-song EP, not only pays homage to the term "Crimble" (which is "Christmas" in Beatle-speak) but also incorporates elements of Americana folk and DIY rock within the framework of the Beatles fan club single from 1967, "Christmas Time Is Here Again."
Nichols was signed to legendary indie label Kill Rock Stars in 2022 after sending material to the label's founder Slim Moon. While defining himself mostly as a solo artist, Nichols enlisted a rotating ensemble of guests including Pat Spurgeon (Rogue Wave, the Dandy Warhols), Adam and Alex Nash (Goodnight Texas), Joshua Barnhart (Port O'Brien, Strange Pilgrim) and Kevin Middlekauf (Proxima Parada) for live performances. Nichols is also a PhD candidate in Creative and Critical Writing at Bangor University in Wales, where he's writing about queer ecopoetics (defined as "poetry with a strong ecological emphasis or message") in contemporary poetry, films, and media.
For his Christmastime release, Nichols also weaves in solo Beatles songs within the medley, including "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" by John Lennon and Yoko Ono (their 1971 peace activism song), "Ding Dong Ding Dong" by George Harrison (from 1974 and intended as a New Year's Eve singalong, though hampered by Harrison's laryngitis), "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney (released in 1979 as a standalone single) and the Ringo Starr/George Harrison co-write "Photograph" (culled from Starr's 1973 solo album Ringo).
The EP also contains "Christmas, California" a Spanish-flavored, Elvis Costello-style track, and "I Fell in Love on Christmas Day," a wistful ballad couched in dark but hopeful nostalgic tones, taken from Nichol's release from last year, Ramon.
This year's medley is not Nichols' first Beatles-related project. The 11-song rock opera Ramon (tiled after a moniker used by Paul McCartney in his pre-stardom Beatle years), reinterpreted canonical characters from the Beatles oeuvre, inverted and invented to fit a storyline in which "Mean" Ramon Mustard fell in love long ago with a ship's captain named Jerome Custard. References to the Abbey Road personalities woven into the medley on side two are juxtaposed against melodies and expressions that echo Nichol's late labelmate, Elliott Smith. Conceived as a concept, Ramon nonetheless leans heavily on the McCartney side of production, with some nods to his initially maligned, later culturally rehabilitated 1971 album Ram.
Nichols also produced several surreal videos for Ramon, which can be found here, and had a prolific year with three other releases: Chan Says & Other Songs, She Is Not Your Shadow and Let's Look Back.