Tuesday, December 25, 2012


.......after all that excitement.....FINALLY.....it's Chriiiiistmas!! Hope you enjoyed the Advent Calendar - have a great day and stay tuned for my best of 2012 picks which will be posted shortly. I'll leave you with my favourite Xmas anthem - I'm an old-fashioned man at heart so I'm gonna go for an obvious one, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a bit of stonking glam rock goonery from the Wizards of Wolverhampton. GET YER BOOTS ON!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 24/24

Judy Garland - Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Let me just clarify that there is absolutely nothing gay about a thirtysomething single bloke sitting alone in his flat listening to Judy Garland, OK? I love me some Judy as much as the next bloke, even if the next bloke just so happens to shave his butt crack and get pissed up on gin with his mother. There have been numerous shitty revamps of this tune by the sort of corporate dick piglets that fill out the music section as Tescos (Katie Melua, I'm looking right at you!) but none of them come anywhere close to matching the squeaky clean Hollywood silk of the original - Judy's voice is the lady's equivalent of Frank Sinatra for the boys, crystal clear to the point of utter perfection and almost impossible to imitate without sounding like a piss-weak karaoke shyster in comparison. This tune is culled from the equally indispensable festive flick 'Meet me in St Louis', one to take in whilst you're chillin' somewhere nice and cosy with the Xmas lights a twinklin'. Garland radiates the kind of doe-eyed Hollywood innocence that you just knew was belied by a personal life addled by truckloads of diet pills, valium and lakes of vodka but you can put all that aside and still enjoy the rosy-cheeked cuteness of her performance in the film which is epitomised by this gazing-into-the-distance cornball delivery of a song that would go on to become a genuine Xmas staple. I could go in for a proper bit of festive snuggling with a young lady on the couch whilst watching some Judy (a young LADY I repeat) and this is the ideal Xmas nugget to lead you into the embers of Xmas Eve as the big day looms just round the corner......

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 23/24

Tim Wheeler and Emmy the Great - Zombie Christmas

Tim Wheeler seems to have made a calculated business decision to move into novelty music over the last couple of years, Ash having long since run its course, and he's teamed up with the equally awesome Emmy the Great for a festive full-length aimed at this year's Xmas charts. Truth be told the single isn't quite the kick in the festive chestnuts that I'd been hoping for (this dude wrote 'Kung Fu' and 'Lose Control' remember!) but it's a pleasant enough stroll through the chaos wrought upon the end of year festivities by an unwarranted zombie invasion (compared to that a bit of unwarranted rainfall is hardly the end of the world is it?). Plus the promo video is pretty bitchin', throwing in some decent George Romero style undead shopping mall violence complete with festive disembowelment and spurting jets of fake blood decorating the walls. Back in the mid 90s you need some pretty solid major label money to finance a cinematic promo clip like this but these days anyone with a record deal seems to have top special effects at their disposal to promote records that nobody's ever conceivably going to pay money for - I suppose we should be grateful that Tim's not had to ditch music completely and get a proper job now that he's in his mid 30s (yeah that's right folks, 'Jack names the Planets' was a looooooong time ago! Naming your debut album after your year of birth doesn't seem like such a good idea now does it?). This is all very nice and all but both sides can do better - Emmy can do the twee stuff better alone and Tim needs to rope in some younger dudes and get back on the road bustin' heads with some proper punk rock. It worked for Melvins and the Ramones, what are you waiting for? 

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 22/24

August Burns Red - Frosty the Snowman

This was a late addition to the list as it's only just been released but the lack of festive metalcore on this list was enough to warrant its last minute inclusion - the concept of a bunch of humourless Yank chug-metal nerds throwing out a Xmas record is not a particularly palatable one but I have to confess that August Burns Red have succeeded with considerable aplomb! 'Sleddin Hill' is worth a listen in its entirety if you're partial to widdly guitar solos, pugilistic breakdowns and thunderous tempos and the band manage to inject a dozen festive staples with enough manic energy to turn them into perfect moshpit fodder - you could line up their version of 'Frosty the Snowman' against classic Hatebreed or Shadows Fall and nobody would bat an eyelid. I've been playing the album with such regularity in the run up to Xmas that my neighbours are probably sick to the back teeth of it - well fuck 'em I say, it's Christmas fer Chrissakes!! You don't get the chance to bust out the festive metalcore more than once a year so I'm all for taking full advantage while I can. Their manic romp through 'Sleigh Ride' is worth a listen too, as is their pinch harmonic take on 'Jingle Bells' (trust me, it sounds better than you might imagine) and you wonder whether there's enough mileage in all this for them to set up a tour this time next year to bring it to the masses. In the meantime I will take my Santa hat off to these guys for producing one of the most enjoyable Xmas records I've heard in a long time - the Twisted Sister record was basically one good idea stretched thin over an entire album but these dudes have gone the whole hog and made a record you can bang your head to from start to finish. Treat someone you love to this feast of X(mas)core and watch their little face light up as they hear 'Frosty' for the first time.

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 21/24

Whigfield - Last Christmas

You have to be very careful when covering an established festive classic lest you succeed only in ruining it for the legions of fans who fell in love with the original. Wham's 'Last Christmas' is one of few records in this elite category (along with 'Fairytale of New York' and any non-humanitarian versions of 'Do they know it's Xmas?') which perhaps explains the predictably hostile reaction that greeted Whigfield's opportunistic rehash of the song when it was released for Xmas 1995. I personally feel that the backlash was unduly harsh - it's no more offensive to the ear than much of the mid 90s Europop that was doing the rounds at the time - but many fans took umbrage with a relic of their childhood innocence being put through the wringer by some Danish Euroslut over a tinny drum machine. Whiggy also timed her run badly as Wham's 'If you were there...' best of compilation would emerge soon afterwards as arguably the first acceptable slice of 80s nostalgia and go on to sell by the truckload which only exacerbated tensions surrounding her own version of the band's festive favourite. This obviously overlooked the not inconsiderable argument that any opportunity to film another promo video of the delectable Dane was a valid one regardless of the circumstances - George Michael and whathisface from Wham looked lovely in their festive knitwear but I know who I'd rather spend Xmas with. And this is coming from an established Wham fan - my mum informed me earlier today that my Monster Munch 'All About Me' book from the mid 1980s listed them as my favourite band. The original 'Last Christmas' obviously had a profound effect on me too, but did it prevent me from tolerating alternate versions of it further down the line? No sir, it did not.

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 20/24

Big Star - Jesus Christ

I'd heard this song covered by various early 90s indie bands before ever realising it was a cover, but that itself is perhaps testament to the longstanding influence of Big Star, the late 60s/early 70s US Power Pop outfit that, along with the Byrds, laid the foundations for much of modern indie rock as we know it. The Beatles and the Stones have been aped on numerous occasions by younger bands but Big Star have seen their melodic jangly rock repackaged and reproduced by almost as many latter day bands from the US college rock scene in the 80s (Throwing Muses, Violet Femmes) to the outward-looking Scottish indie output of the same period (Teenage Fanclub, Vaselines) along with 90s metal-edged pop rockers like Therapy and the Wildhearts. 'Jesus Christ' is from their oft overlooked third record and taps up the magical energy of your average Christmas Carol to craft a gorgeous slice of sugary indie rock from back in the days before the term 'indie' even existed. This track would fit right into your average primary school carol concert yet it doesn't suffer from the icky sicky tweeness that such a context would suggest - someone's sprinkled sparky tinkerbell dust all over this track and turned it into something truly special. 90s indie nerks The Family Cat, Kristen Hersh and the aforementioned Teenage Fanclub have all covered it for festive releases and I'd be willing to bet that many other 4AD/Creation types have too, such is its indie pedigree. This is the ideal soundtrack to smooching cute chicks under the indie mistletoe.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 19/24

Band Aid 2 - Do they know it's Christmas?

Band Aid. AGAIN. Yeah I know, this tune does tend to suffer from a spot of over-exposure at this time of year but it's still a pretty well-crafted piece of pop and the original version is one of the only charity records that most listeners can sit through without projectile vomiting all over the Xmas tree. The track has been Xmas number one on no less than three occasions since its release, the original fighting off stiff competition from Wham's 'Last Christmas' in 1984 to top the charts on Xmas day and also finish as the year's best selling single whilst a 20th Anniversary rehash featuring a new generation of big-hearted pop stars such as Chris Martin and Dizzee Rascal impressively managed to repeat both feats in 2004. The version between the two tends to get lost down the back of the sofa, and for good reason - back in 1989 the demon overlords of Stock, Aitken and Waterman were running pop music and a tasteless phoned-in version was hastily bundled together for the Xmas market to celebrate five years since the original's release. The period charm of the '84 vintage is lost completely as a gaggle of production line S.A.W puppets line up to trot out an uninspiring run-through the original over the sort of cheap synthetic production that graced most mainstream pop records at the time. Bananarama are the only artists to remain from the first version (good pop quiz question there!) but even they look to be edging closer to the knackers' yard and the new breed of garish pop laboratory experiments like Sonia, Big Fun and Bros manage to totally drain the original of all its magic in the same way modern-day X Factor contestants regularly butcher established classics. As if that lot weren't bad enough, even Sir Cliff pops up to put in a seasonal cameo and in doing so managed to set himself up for a festive hat-trick of Xmas chart-toppers that he had begun the previous year with 'Mistletoe and Wine' and would complete in 1990 with the equally emetic 'Saviour's Day'. Revivalist pop historians will point to 1989 as a landmark year for the crossover success of acid house, baggy and homegrown indie rock but one look at the upper reaches of the singles charts back then tells a different story - pop sucked in '89 and the year's rehash of 'Do they know it's Xmas?' manages to bring together everything that was wrong with pop at the time over one charmless track. The only positive thing about this version of the song is that fucking Bono isn't on it.

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 18/24

Ska-P - Villancico

OK, I may have been a little too scathing about ska punk in the last entry so here's a spot of festive Iberian pogo punk to level things out. Spain's Ska-P were one of my favourite bands in the early noughties, reading from the same rulebook as many of their North American peers but adding a touch of comic theatrics and tinto-chugging Iberian craziness to the mix to concoct their own devilishly addictive formula. 'Villancico' is their festive themed offering from 1998's 'Eurosis' LP which wasn't their best effort (check out 2000's `Planeta Eskoria` or their rollicking debut 'El Vals del Obrero' for their strongest setlists) but still packed in a few pleasant surprises. This live version begins with their second vocalist Pipi galumphing onstage dressed as Jesus before the band launch into what I assume is some sort of socialist re-appraisal of the modern Xmas experience (my Spanish isn't up to much so I may be way off the mark). Their live shows were pretty insane back in the day but they took the bold step of quitting while they were ahead and hung up their boots in the mid noughties before reforming later in the decade to considerable acclaim in their native land. This is a pretty good tune to stick on if you're getting a bit sick of the icky sentimental fare generally served up at Xmas and provides a nice moment of subversive punk pop to break up the monotony of endless rehashes of 'Santa Baby' and 'All I want for Xmas if you'. Bueno! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 17/24

No Doubt - Oi to the World

Aaaaah the late 90s, remember that eh? Back when you couldn't walk into a rock club without being bombarded with shitty ska punk from every angle and every singer had the same irritating Sesame Street accent. Now that this shit is fifteen years old it sounds pretty ridiculous but back in '97 No Doubt were on top of the world, 'No Speak' and 'Just a Girl' having transformed them into global megastars and made Gwen Stefani's blond hair 'n' lipstick chic the look to imitate if you were a teenage girl (no bad thing I admit). Their music blew goats for the most part but this little festive ditty is pleasant enough, cranking up the pace for what sounds like some sort of punk culture rallying call for all the subsections to lay down their arms and get along with each other. I think the mark of true success in the States back then was if MTV persuaded you to do a Xmas single for their video rotation programme in December, cementing your position at the top of the Billboard food chain and providing the suburban brats across America with another single to shell out for. To their credit Gwen and the boys have managed to drop in and out of fashion with alarming regularity since their heyday, popping up with the odd hit from time to time when you thought they'd been locked in the 90s attic along with Hootie and the Blowfish and Four Non-Blondes. I think they even have a record out now in fact, although true to form I have no idea what it's called and no intention of ever listening to it.

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 16/24

Jethro Tull - Ring out Solstice Bells

If you were tripping balls and wearing a kaftan back in the mid 70s then you were probably hot for Jethro Tull, Britain's most lovably eccentric prog outfit who dropped this bizarre festive nugget back in 1976. Tull were less about twenty minute guitar solos and humourless philosophising, these dudes were into their cider 'n' mushrooms folk rock in a big way and succeeded in notching a few extremely unlikely hit singles back in the 70s alongside fellow hirsute nutbags Hawkwind and King Crimson - they managed to eke things out for longer than you might think too, hanging around in the background to famously deny Metallica the 'Best Rock Performace' Grammy award in 1989 back when they could still rock your balls off and Hetfield hadn't cut his hair or gone to rehab. 'Solstice Bells' is a pleasant hey-nonny-nonny slice of festive folk and it clearly brightened up what I presume was a fairly dull Top of the Pops back in what was possibly pop's worst year of all time (just look at that fartknocker presenting the show - he looks about 90!!). This was the atmosphere from which the Pistols emerged in late '76 don't forget, they had a lot of ground to cover back then. Tull still rules though, these guys put the freak in folk like nobody else - now that the genre's back in, where are all our googly-eyed flute playing frontmen to pick up where Ian Anderson left off? Come on kids, look lively!

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 15/24

The Wedding Present - No Christmas

Just in case all these festive favourites were getting a little too jovial for you, here's some miserable British indie to sour the mood and remind us all how much like sucks. The Wedding Present emerged from the late 80s indie schmindie scene alongside House of Love and late-period The Fall to notch some degree of crossover success, most noticeably in 1992 when a campaign of one-a-month limited edition singles gave them a record-breaking 12 top 30 singles in the space of one calendar year. 'No Christmas' was the final release of the bunch and manages to deflate any festive cheer you might have managed to summon up prior to listening, pitching David Gedge's grim vocals against a slab of lurching indie rock that sounded completely out of place in the singles charts which made their commercial success all the more flattering. But that was back when the charts actually meant something wasn't it? These days all you need to do is kick the bucket and your entire back catalogue races back up the download charts without so much as a casual prompt. Back in the day bands had to go out and convince a nation of raincoat-clad students and miserable indie dorks to leave their bedrooms long enough to walk to Our Price and shell out for a piece of black plastic - it's a miracle these gumbies ever bothered the charts at all, let alone setting records to stick them up alongside Cliff Richard and fucking Westlife. I suppose there's a strain of misery and futility running through all of their peers that makes them somehow feel at home.

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 14/24

The Three Tenors - Jingle Bells

In what is perhaps the ultimate waste of good voices on crappy material, here's Carreras, Domingo and Big Daddy Pav' busting out 'Yingle Bells' as a light-hearted excerpt from one of their massive concerts in the 90s. I'm not really into my opera but I can kinda see why people like this stuff - there's enough lung capacity on that front stage to blow a Volvo up a fire escape. I think my favourite is José Carreras, the wee guy in the middle - he's got a kind of gangster aura about him, like Joe Pesci in the Scorcese films, the small ball of fiery energy that'll bust your skull for looking at him the wrong way. I mean, voices like that can only command respect can't they? If these dudes turned up on your doorstep for a spot of carol singing (even without the symphony orchestra and castrato kiddie choir to back them up) I think I'd bust out my chequebook to make sure they didn't take offence and blow my fucking house down. Placido Domingo was good humoured enough to let Sesame Street immortalise him as a pink flamingo back in the day though and Pavarotti even managed to bag himself an opera crossover hit with 'Nessum Dorma' back in the heady days of Italia '90. These guys have such pedigree that they can even make a pony Xmas tune sound bombastic. Reeeeespect!

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 13/24

Blümchen - Unter'm Weihnachtsbaum

Turning away from rock for a moment, here's a pleasant spot of festive Europop for you from the delectable Jasmin Wagner, AKA 90s Euro Techno hit-machine Blümchen. Miss Wagner managed to notch an admirable run of hit singles in her native Germany over the mid to late 90s   in the same musical vein as her fellow countrymen Scooter, matching squeaky vocals with stonking piano riffs and high BPM clubland rhythm to craft some pretty solid Happy Hardcore. The fact that she generally sang in German meant that much of the material failed to notch any noticeable success outside of her homeland and its Germanophone neighbours and even a couple of English-language revamps failed to promote her to widespread audiences. All in all it's a bit of a shame as I reckon she's got some cracking tunes under her belt - 'Unter'm Weihnachtsbaum' is one of her last releases, tapping the 1999 Xmas market with a festive blend of bell-ringing, thunking bass and rollercoaster rhythms backed by a pleasant video showcasing Wagner frolicking with some 'Night at the Museum' style pixie people. She called time on hitmaking shortly afterwards in the early noughties but has resurfaced a couple of times since then, most notably when German fans attempted to download-bomb her single 'Boomerang' back into the local charts some years after its initial release in a 'Killing in the Name' style campaign against the latest X Factor showpony. This probably speaks volumes about Germanic taste in music but as far as I'm concerned they had the better idea - instead of trying to smash the system, why not just out cheese 'em instead?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 12/24

AC/DC - Mistress for Christmas

Following on neatly from the Ramones, here's another band who've managed to carve out a long and illustrious career despite all their records sounding EXACTLY the same. AC/DC famously never strayed too far from their blueprint of big ass riffs, fist in your face percussion and raunchy lyrics and 'Mistress for Christmas' is no different, displaying no ostensibly festive characteristics aside from the punning title and a few lyrical references to 'riding your reindeer' etc. But then I don't think sleigh bells and festive ho-ho-ho's would go very well with Brian Johnson's Domestos-gargling vocals and music that would make most kids run and hide in the attic. The track was released on 1990's 'The Razor's Edge' (home of 'Thunderstruck', 'Moneytalks' etc) which came as a stonking return to form after a string of slightly lacklustre 80s releases and would be their last new material for five years until they staged another comeback in the mid 90s with the similarly subtle 'Ballbreaker' LP. There's not much point waxing lyrical about the track, it sounds pretty much like every other AC/DC song but any excuse to stick on a bit of Acca Dacca is a valid one in my book and 'Mistress for Christmas' is the ideal soundtrack to playing festive air guitar at three in the morning whilst spilling lager all over the carpet and waking up your neighbours. Surely an indispensable inclusion on any Xmas playlist!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 11/24

The Ramones - Merry Christmas (I don't wanna fight tonight)

Everyone loves Christmas - FACT. Everyone loves the Ramones - FACT. So the Ramones doing a Christmas song can only be a good thing. 'Merry Christmas....' was tagged on the end of 1989's 'Brain Drain' album, the last full lengther Dee Dee would participate in as a full time member of the band and it's a predictably stellar listen. The Ramones were always big pop fans and this only became more obvious during their flawless run of 80s albums (which I will happily defend as equal to their much-lauded 70s output) so a Xmas tune was well within their remit, especially as they'd already laid down a non-festive full length with the King of Xmas records himself, Phil Spector (his Wall of Sound-tastic 'A Xmas Gift for you' album is possibly the best Xmas record ever and a regular festive hit in our house). The song sounds pretty much like any other Ramones record with a bit of sleigh bells thrown in for good measure but these guys could run through the S Club 7 back catalogue and make it sound cool and they play a blinder here, bringing a much needed bit of punk love to the party and giving you a genuine DJ request option for that office party in the midst of all the Wham, Slade and Shakin' Stevens. Time to lay down your arms, put your differences aside and engage in a festive circle pit around your Xmas tree. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 10/24

Elmo and Patsy - Grandma got run over by a reindeer

The festive season can be a somewhat hazardous time of year, what with drunk drivers, black ice and internecine family arguments descending into murderous violence at the drop of a hat. We should pay special attention to our loved ones at times like these and make sure that they come to no harm, a point well made by old school comedy singer Elmo Shropshire on his splendidly dark festive anthem 'Grandma got run over a reindeer' in the early 1980s. The track recounts an unfortunate Yuletide incident at the family home where Grandma forgets to take her medication, gets ripped to the tits on eggnog and blunders off into the snow to meet an untimely death - it later emerges that her late husband may have been involved in her passing and he settles back into a soothing lifestyle of drinking, gambling and trying to boff some younger relative. This is some pretty scalding black humour, don't let the jovial festive accompaniment fool you. Elmo apparently made himself millions off the success of this one track that has remained a bit of a longstanding favourite amongst country fans - those folks certainly know how to do cruel humour like nobody else. But it's good to have someone to balance things out against saccharine crap like 'There's no-one quite like Grandma' so hats off to old Elmo for giving us a bit of a giggle to smooth our passage through the festive season.

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 9/24

Low - Little Drummer Boy

Christmas albums needn't be nauseating white bread acts of rampant commercialism fit only for invasive airings in your local shopping centre, there's a sprinkle of magic to a lot of Xmas music that can be harnessed and brought to the forefront by the discerning musician. Greg Lake managed it on his festive favourite 'I believe in Father Christmas', the Pogues' seemingly indestructible 'Fairytale of New York' has (almost) survived 25 years of being played to death without losing its mid-winter romance and Yank slowcore nerds Low managed to pump a whole album full of fairy dust with their stellar Xmas release back in 1999. 'Little Drummer Boy' is the highlight of the set, setting a distant marching drum beat against a hum of low reverb and some gorgeously understated vocals - this is real stop you in your tracks stuff, I remember hearing it on John Peel at the time and being totally spellbound. Even the most hardened Scrooge out  there secretly longs for fairies and snowflakes at this time of year and this is exactly the sort of record to bring it out of them - you might be heartily sick of the likes of Mariah Carey and Cliff Richard by now and already looking forward to January but a subtle sip of this should bring you back to the wide-eyed enchantment of Xmas back when you were a kiddie. Lovely stuff.

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 8/24

King Diamond - No Presents for Christmas

Ok, first a brief apology for the notable lack of entries over the past couple of days - as you may have guessed I've been having computer problems to which the solution may have to be a late bid to Santa for a new laptop. Fortunately I've been very good this year. The concept of festive gifts also brings me rather neatly onto my next Xmas anthem from King Diamond, high-pitched warbler with hugely influential 80s metal tykes Mercyful Fate who kicked off his solo career in the mid 80s with this rather curious standalone single. 'No Presents for Christmas' is for the most part not massively different to his later solo material, all galloping riffs and demonic cackling with a lyrical focus on paperback horror themes. The track lumps together a series of festive musical snippets to lighten the mood from the rollicking metal on show and veers off into the sort of comic self-parody that you'd expect to hear on an Iron Maiden B-side from the same era rather than the genuinely spooky output of King's later releases. I'm not sure what his gameplan was when he released this, it was perhaps a spot of comic relief aimed at those who viewed him as a genuinely dangerous devil-worshipper or alternatively a defiant gesture to musical cynics who deemed the genre of heavy metal to be incompatible with Xmas music. Either way, for a guy who's spent much of his career denying Christ and singing into a bone crucifix you have to admit that 'No Presents' is quite the stylistic curveball. 

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 7/24

DJ Lycan - Christmas Techno

Christmas, much like anything else in life, is infinitely better if you put a donk on it, a point neatly proven by the hitherto unknown 'DJ Lycan' in this rather endearing mix of festive favourites in a goonish Euro Techno mash-up. Not exactly rocket science by any stretch but then Happy Hardcore doesn't really do subtlety and I imagine this sounds pretty brilliant in a warehouse full of shirtless Dutch guys jacked to the eyeballs on steroids and brick dust pumping their fists and sweating profusely. In fact I'm surprised that nobody has come up with a club night exclusively dedicated to festive donk, there's surely a gap in the market there - imagine what fun you could have dancing to stuff like this all evening! Alternatively, if they ever get sick of waterboarding prisoners then I reckon a looped recording of 'Xmas favourites reproduced in the style of DJ Otzi' would surely be a hit in the political detention centres of the world. Either way there's a thirst out there that's just waiting to be quenched.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 6/24

Fear - Fuck Christmas

Hardcore bands are way too tough to bother with Xmas songs, right? Wrong! LA knuckleheads Fear included this 45-second blast of humbuggery on their bitchin' début LP back in 1982, eschewing the festive cheer typical of many seasonal releases for a ripsnorting rampage through some brutal moshpit powerviolence. But then again these guys hated pretty much everything apart from beer and punk rock and that included their own audiences most of the time - check out their crowd-pleasing turn at the end of Penelope Spheeris' 'Decline of Western Civilisation' documentary if you need to see some proof. 'Fuck Christmas' is unlikely to appear on any 'Most Awesome Xmas Music!' playlists but it does have its place in the canon of festive favourites, if only as the soundtrack to your drunken uncle blundering home after half a bottle of whisky and smashing up the kids' toys in a frenzy of existential despair à la Billy Bob Thornton in 'Bad Santa'. Aaah Christmas, it brings out the best in all of us.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 5/24

Jon Bon Jovi - Please come home for Christmas

I would normally make every effort to avoiding anything involving Jon Bon Jovi but it's not an easy task - the guy has managed to pilot his shitty poodle rock troupe through three decades of audio pollution without ever going away and his perfect teeth and hairy chest seem destined to pop up wherever you look. Although Bon Jovi are typically regarded as an 80s band, they actually enjoyed their biggest sales year in 1994 when their 'Crossroad' best of compilation was the year's biggest seller and the fuck-awful ballad 'Always' provided them with the their biggest ever hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Just to rub it in, JBJ elected to release his cover version of 60s festive hit 'Please come home for Christmas' (the Eagles had released their own cover of it in the late 70s which is way better) which followed 'Always' into the top ten in December 1994 on the back of a lurid promo video featuring the vocalist rolling around half naked with Cindy Crawford. It somehow wasn't enough that his band could wallpaper their spare room with platinum albums or that they'd been the only hair metal band to survive the grunge explosion, the guy still has to make sure we all know how awesome he is by bumping uglies with a supermodel? Thanks a lot Jon, you smug, smug fucker.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 4/24

Saint Etienne/Tim Burgess - I was born on Xmas Day

If you were a red-blooded heterosexual into your indie back in the early 1990s then chances are you lusted after one of the two vocalists involved here, Saint Etienne's delectable Sarah Cracknell and the Charlatans' floppy-fringed frontman Tim Burgess. So it came as an added bonus when both of them decided to team up for this oft-overlooked festive frolic from Xmas 1993. Saint Etienne were in the middle of a faultless run of kitsch-pop hit singles ('You're in a bad way', 'Only love can break your heart', 'Who do you think you are?' etc) whilst the Charlies were in a bit of a lull that they'd emerge from a couple of years later with their 1995 eponymous LP (featuring 'Just when you're thinking things over', 'Feelin' Holy' et al). This tune is very much in the style of the former than the latter, Sarah maintaining the retro sex kitten rush whilst Tim potters around in the background and it's more likely to be fondly remembered by St Etienne's long term fans than by the raucous lager monkeys that turn out for Charlatans shows these days. Not a bad little number though and one that deserves more airtime than it gets, if only as a reminder of how sexy Sarah Cracknell looks in that mini dress. Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Monday, December 03, 2012

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 3/24

Run DMC - Christmas in Hollis

Xmas time can often lead to overindulgence, so what better way to work off some of that weight than by shaking your booty to a spot of festive hip hop? Run DMC were at the height of their fame when they dropped 'Christmas in Hollis' back in 1987 on the back of the stonking 'Raising Hell' LP from the previous year (home of 'It's Tricky', 'Walk this Way', 'My Adidas' etc) and the track indulges in a bit of good-spirited self-parody and seasonal cheer with plenty of sleigh bells, eggnog and 'ill reindeers'. Santa reciprocates with a generous shower of gifts of rope gold and tracksuits in the video clip as the band play along with some goofy humour that you suspect might be beyond many of their thuggish modern-day successors - remember folks, Xmas is the time for good will to all men and that includes the squares, suckas and punk-ass beeeeyatches out there that you've spent the previous 11 months engaged in an ongoing feud with. We're surely overdue another 'lay down your arms and have some turkey' anthem from today's rap community - come on folks, who's gonna take up the mantle? 

Sunday, December 02, 2012

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 2/24

Twisted Sister - Oh Come All Ye Faithful

The glam metal boom of the 1980s has seen a resurgence over recent years as every second tier poodle rock outfit got back together for a reunion tour to pay for their rehab bills and divorce settlements - Twister Sister managed to gone one better though and recorded their very own Xmas record 'A Twisted Christmas' in 2006, replete with metal versions of several established festive favourites. The lead single was their reworking of 'Oh come all ye faithful' which, as many listeners had doubtless pointed out, bore more than a passing resemblance to their signature tune 'We're not gonna take it' - instead of dodging the issue the band embraced it and busted out a rollicking version of the festive classic that merged the two songs and taped a promo video very much in the same vein as their prime-era 80s MTV classics (the chick in the clip looks strangely similar to the tyrannical parent/teacher in their old school videos too - is she his daughter I wonder?). This wins because the song rocks but also because Dee Snider has come to resemble the grizzly gin-soaked maiden Auntie that showed up at Xmas when you were a kid and demanded you came over and gave her a BIG KISS (mentally blocking out the whiff of mothballs and three-day lumberjack stubble). Xmas pantomimes across the UK are full of dudes that look like this right now, although the Sister don't just trowel on the make-up for the festive season - these guys are still glamming it up every night on tour all year round (even though they're all about 18 stone and slightly scary looking). God Bless the Widow Twankies of hair metal, long may they continue to get their rock on.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Alternative Advent Calendar : 1/24

Elvis Presley - White Christmas

What better way to start than with a little something from the King? Aside from laying the foundations for modern pop music as we know it, Elvis also set the standard for the lucrative Xmas album format and his festive 1957 collection remains the best selling Xmas record of all time. It wasn't the first time a popular artist had capitalised on their popularity by flinging out a Xmas record at the height of their fame but Elvis' status as the first genuine pop star of his time gave him the opportunity to mix things up a little bit style-wise and the album married straight-faced spiritual numbers with some more upbeat cuts delivered in the pelvic-thrusting hornmonster persona he had adopted back then, resulting in the first example of a mainstream pop artist repackaging Xmas tunes in their own inimitable style. Bizarrely the song that caused the most trouble wasn't one of the raunchy rock 'n' roll numbers but his revamp of Bing Crosby's 'White Christmas', itself an established festive standard of 15 years' pedigree by that point - Elvis' slow, seductive version of the song enraged composer Irving Berlin enough to prompt him to phone radio stations across North America insisting that they remove the 'profane parody of his cherished yuletide standard' from their playlists. These days it's hard to see what the fella was so upset about but then again that was 55 years ago so we can probably assume that the modern-day impact would be something along the lines of LMFAO recording a bosh-pop reworking of Cliff Richard's 'Mistletoe and Wine' over a video montage of elf on elf bondage and reindeer fellatio. Such are the times we live in I suppose....

The Alternative Advent Calendar : Intro

Hi folks,

Now that December is upon us and the festive season is in full force you can probably expect to be assailed by the same Xmas playlists that you've heard a zillion times before every time you set foot in a shop, bar or other area of public loitering until you're so sick of hearing them that you end up praying that the Mayans were right and that we'll all be mercifully released a few days earlier than scheduled this year.

Well fear not dear reader, for salvation is at hand! I've taken it upon myself to provide an alternative list of Xmas classics this year and shall be revealing them at the rate of one a day in an advent calendar styleee, stepping away from overplayed standards like 'Fairytale of New York', 'All I want for Xmas is you' and anything involving Cliff Richard to bring you some alternative yuletide anthems that habitually fly under the radar at this time of year. 

Keep checking this page for your daily dose of festive audio frolics as we count down to total extinction of mankind another fabulous Xmas celebration and I hope you enjoy the tunes :)

xxx John