Bittles‘ Magazine | Christmas Music Special
Now that we have entered that fickle month otherwise known as December, a swarm of dreaded Christmas music will have risen up from hell and attacked the ears of innocent music listeners everywhere. By JOHN BITTLES
Nowhere is safe! Everywhere you venture you will be besieged by the shrill warbling of the likes of Mariah Carey, Slade, East 17 and worse of all Cliff ‘I’m dead inside’ Richards. It’s enough to make a grown man burst into tears while going postal with a homemade machine-gun (don’t try this at home kids unless your Mum allows you to use scissors).
Those who possess the temerity to flick on the radio during these next few weeks will be inundated with overly happy people singing overly happy songs about snow, presents and sucking Santa off under the mistletoe. Adverts scream Christmas cheer at you and make even the most even minded become depressed at the gap between the lives presented on screen and the grey lonely existence which most of us know. And you can’t even think about going to a shop without experiencing palpitations at the thought of how each and every retail outlet will be playing Fairytale in New York (the edgy ones) and Wham’s White Christmas (all the rest).
So just what is a music lover to do? Well, usually at this time of year I will find a nice dank wardrobe, cellar or cubby-hole and I will lock myself away with my Primal Scream collection, Smith’s boxset and Jesus and Mary Chain discography and emerge invigorated 26 days later. Let me emphasise that this will be the only sure way of escaping the horror that is Christmas music! But if you don’t have as great a record collection as me, or if all the likely hibernation places in your district are already filled then there are other measures to be taken to survive December and its perils.
The best way to achieve this is to be pro-active and set out to find Christmas music that does not make your ears want to explode. There is stuff out there, although like more or less everything worth having you will have to indulge in a desperate and ever more frantic search. Even when you find them, care must be taken as you will need to utilise all your skills in coaxing these rare beasts out of hiding as you would an overly nervous fawn.
For instance, last year Smith and Burrows of Editors and Razorlight fame (don’t laugh) released the rather listenable Funny Looking Angels which was an album containing heart-warningly melancholic seasonal fare. Similarly, but with more bombast was A Snowflake Fell (And it Felt Like a Kiss) by Scottish ruffians Glasvegas. Top tunes such as Fuck you, it’s Over and Cruel Moon illustrate how even though the nations’ televisions tell you that you are a social deviant if you don’t sport a mile-long smile, it really is ok to be angry, sad or messed-up when it comes to Christmas day. Hooray!
In contrast This is Christmas by Emmy the Great and Tim Wheeler from Ash and A Very She & Him Christmas by (surprise surprise) She & Him will delight hipsters everywhere even if they should be avoided by normal people at all costs lest they suffer from an attack of the overly twee.
Other releases to beware of include Snow Globe by 80s pop icons Erasure which gossip claims can cause aural herpes, Christmas Time by The Darkness since every time someone plays this a Santa Claus dies. As I am sure you wouldn’t want to be responsible for the demise of the real one I will rest easy at night now knowing that none of you shall ever play this hideous tune again. There is also the hairy-chested majesty of David Hasselhoff with The Night Before Christmas, an album so bad it is actually awful. Yet just try to listen to it without smiling and laughing! It’s nigh on impossible! Also, my mate Sam says that if you listen to the entire album while twirling round anti-clockwise in a knee length yellow cocktail dress it will cure erectile dysfunction, and you can’t really ask for more than that.
And then we come to Swings Both Ways by Granny pacifier Robbie Williams. It may seem harsh, but to my mind at least this album is the sound of one man masturbating while gazing longingly at his reflection and trying furiously to come on his own face. Although it’s really not too bad if you’re into that type of thing!
Much better is the wonderfully spine-tingling version of Frosty the Snowman by spectral indie-kings The Cocteau Twins, It Doesn’t Often Snow at Christmas by The Pet Shop Boys and Driving Home for Christmas by Chris Rea (What you mean you don‘t believe me?). Even renowned misery-guts Lou Reed got in on the decent Christmas tune act with Xmas in February which with the right media campaign could easily make this years Christmas number one.
Eels’ Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas might have a try-too-hard title but is still very good while even the annual Christmas songs from The Killers tend to be just the right side of smarm. Those ethereal shoe-gazers Low gave us the rather majestic Christmas EP while best head-fuck moment comes from Lindstroms’ 42 minute version of Little Drummer Boy which is both an endurance test and a piece of hypnotic excellence.
Also be sure to have a listen to A Christmas Album by Bright Eyes for some soulful acoustic strumming, Tinsel and Lights by bedsit queen Tracey Thorn and Simple Feeling/I Wonder as I Wander by Smoke Fairies. Phew! And if that doesn’t work then like a good Samaritan I am willing to rent out my spare closet for only £20 an hour. It is the season of giving after all!
| JOHN BITTLES