Various Artists - It's Not Like Christmas
Reviewed by Dave on 24th December 2006
If you ask my closest friends about my feelings towards festivities and Santa Claus and all that kind of crazy ass crap they will tell you that I am a Scrooge. To quote Terry Pratchett I am "about thirty six in cynicism". But in order to prove that I am indeed a little bit festive I bought "It's not Like Christmas" and my, my what a good little album it is. The album is released with all proceeds going to Shelter the charity that supports the homeless and features a myriad of indie rock greats. That's right. Greats.
From my own personal point of view one of the stand out tracks are Emmy the Great's cover of John Prine's "Christmas in Prison" featuring Lightspeed Champion. This song is simply gorgeous. Stripped down to its basics of an acoustic guitar, a violin and Emmy's unique vocals; the song is silky smooth and from the opening twang of Emmy's guitar strings you are suckered in. The cover is done in Emmy's own style, with a low beginning that builds to the chorus and the end of the song, its bliss in musical form.
The second track that I can't stop listening to is David Ford's original "Have Yourself a Bitter Little Christmas", a love song with a Christmassy feel. The song opens with the tiny "ding ding" of a glockenspiel and quickly graduates to a somewhat folksy rhythm, the cynicism is overwhelming, but the song is not about Christmas, its about leaving someone you love and doing so at what some people might think is the wrong time of year to do so. The closing line "have yourself a bitter little Christmas and a twisted New Year" mirrors how many people feel at the end of a relationship.
Minuteman's rather stark cover of "Last Christmas" is worth mentioning; starting out with just Matt Jones' vocals and what sounds like circus music it's quite disturbing to begin with. It builds into an electro-indie wonder, very much like Indigo Star Cruiser (who also feature on the album), that runs circles around the original.
Sketches for Albinos provide an instrumental post-rock version of "Let It Snow" on a par with anything that the mighty Sigur Ros have released. It is an interesting counter-point to the whole album, a chill out track rather than either a folk or indie driven cover. The lack of vocals only makes it more enjoyable but the song does feel overly long and the middle eighth doesn't really pull its weight.
If you like Christmas but hate the shitty music that is pumped into shopping centres and anywhere else some idiot can rig up a PA system or loudspeaker then this album is for you. It's also a good gift for someone into the British indie scene at the minute as it features some of the major British bands around or poised on the brink of mega-stardom. Also, the money is for charity.
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