|As a rule I normally shy away from whole albums packed with Yuletide content, I think it has something to do with a child hood being severely tarnished by the obligatory playing of Elvis’ ‘Christmas Album’ every festive season. The experience has, as you can imagine, left an indelible mark on me.
So imagine my horror to be faced three albums packed choca-block with seasonal salutations, and worse still to find that, after a fair few slugs of Christmas punch, that they ain’t to bad.
First of the bag of delights comes courtesy of New Zealand, originally out in 2001, well you know how these Christmas things take on a perennial air, this whopping 19 track feast springs up several notable surprises, in the main it’s a covers exercise some well known some not so, all basted and ripe for target practice. Sadly there’s nothing to leary here though you do at least get the chance to hear media luvvies D4 and the Datsuns getting all sentimental as only they how.
Cherry picking through the compilation the festive set is opened by The Hollow Grinders who can be found happily plucking, and I did say plucking, the old Johnny Mathis chestnuts warming by the fire classic ‘When a child is born’ and giving it a sleigh surfing work out. Pitching in fur flying, the Datsuns kick off the AC/DC tags to get down and dirty with a self penned seasonal scorcher ‘All I want for Christmas’, toxic stuff even if it does sound like Mudhoney stomping all over Slade. Playing it all homely the Brunettes come in for a neat spell of curling Belle and Sebastian had they swallowed a dippy version of Jonathon Richman’s more poppier songbook, just watch out for the mock falsettos and the lazy laid back vibe, quite groovy really. D4 turn up the heat for the riotous ‘Don’t believe in Christmas’ pogoing in the best spirit of the Ramones, fraught rawk.
One of the collections best cuts is former Black Panther Matt Aliens cover of Band Aid’s ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’, what appears at first just a gentle ramble soon manifests itself into a discordant piece of hi-jinx that has by the sound of it a buzz-saw for a lead guitar, beastly stuff. Matt Alien turns up again as part of the Hitone Destroyers for the scorching ‘What’s the deal with the man in red?’ lo-fi menace pretty much in the mould of the Halo of Flies in a good mood. Five Car Pile Up are equally up to the challenge as they faithfully run through the old Patsy Raye seasonal tuneage ‘Beatnik’s Wish’ and give it, if at all possible, a smoother retread, really tasty stuff. Xanadu pick up the pace again with the soaring space rock fuzz out ‘I see a Star’ which admittedly seems more than a might out of place here but we won’t hold that against them as they wig out in fine style with their hybrid Hawkwind / MC5 mutation.
One of the collections daftest cuts and one for all the family to sing-a-long to is Shaft’s re-treading of a traditional arrangement ‘Must be Santa’, like being back at school again. And it’s not very often that we get the Fall being covered, in fact it should be made law that every half decent band should at least once in their life feel obliged to get to grips with a Smithy composition, here Brother Love’s Free Association tangle themselves up with ‘No Xmas for John Quaye’ to fine style, obliterating it in the process under a deluge of sonic mayhem. ‘Blue Christmas’ is given the Dolly treatment by the Radio Kings, all country sultriness and packed to the brim with steel guitars while the best cut of the lot, and only because it’s so waywardly off balance, ‘Rudolf 2001’ by Little Stevie Mccabe blessed with such a lazy and trippy dynamic that your amazed it manages to somehow make it to the end, think Marc Bolan on a seriously blissed out chemical cocktail. Christmas bah Humbug!