Album Reviews

Various – A Very Cherry Christmas 2

(Cherryade) UK release date: 27 November 2006

All you need for Christmas is an atmospheric bit of electronica. Amongstthe slew of Greatest Hits records from the Greatest Bands In The World thattraditionally greet us at Christmas, we’re lucky to get the occasional gem.

One that stands out in recent memory is the Low Christmas EP of 1999, whichreminded the sensitively-inclined of the potential for truly soulful yuletidemagic. Of course, beyond logical argument, the greatest Christmas record of alltime is Half Man Half Biscuit’s It’s Cliched to be Cynical atChristmas – a heartfelt condemnation of the Curmudgeon Culture which thisCherryade LP does well to follow its lead.

The pivot of A Very Cherry Christmas 2 is the Zoltan Kodaly School ForGirls version of Lewie’s Stop the Cavalry, a humble bit ofinstrumental play from a band of collegiate recorder terrorists billed as “the world’sfirst all girl post-modern recorder quartet.” Pocket Gods had earliergot it all underway with the exuberant statement “It’s Christmas Eve and I’mpissed again,” their tune jangling away with abrasive glee, and now I’mlistening to Paul Hawkins, who seems pretty pissed off too, in thatfestive way, about to Get A Divorce For Christmas.

Pretty insane stuff, and drowning their sorrows with them areex-Hefner man Jack Hayter – still availed of the magic-mystery machinesthat created 2001’s epic Dead Media. Jocky Vankataramen, ulogises Galloway spirit with a poignantsocial conscience. Jimmy from The Bobby McGees is wondering whether Santacan fit all the presents he wants under the tree, but his girlfriend, El,seeks a little more affection, perhaps a kiss under the mistletoe, which maybeshe’ll get when the world wakes up to the McGees’ ukulele-inflectedbrilliance. Meanwhile Thee Cats Pajamas just want to crank up some atmospheric feedback with which to greet the mother-in-law.

Norwich’s True Adventures lead a fringe group of melody-ladenhipsters in an assault of the senses like fine wine and pudding, in thequintessentially pop rebellion with them the Low-like Chalkdust and LuckyLucky Pidgeons. Their immaculately Swedish pop song Red Santa is at thetime of writing possibly the finest thing I’ve ever heard, all jaunty rhythmsand cute as hell girl vocals, speaking to the warmest, fun-most part of thehuman soul.

Is that Ryan Hardy accusing Santa of having an erection? Surely not. His I Saw Santa ushers in the lo-fi, festive whimsy of BeatnikFilmstars and Candy Panic Attack, who’s On The Dole At Christmas islike a ceremonial parade of last years toys across the living room floor onChristmas Day, all condemned chugging and unwanted sadness. Uke Stanza’s A little Tree meanwhile has that same stunning air of redemption and,unbelievably, that very same voice as Johnny Cash, only it’s his own, and Idon’t think he’s fucking about. Amazing.

Life With Bells (not Without Buildings) provide the “allyou need for Christmas is an atmospheric bit of electronica” thought, theirLast Noel shimmering with downbeat charm like that lost second Waitresses hit,before pushing out the lo-fi we have Wizard-tinged rock ‘n’ roll,Dawn Of The Replicants taking on Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Timewith a different kind of box-of-frog madness and Captain Polaroidfiring away like Graham Coxon in Hefner playing to a retinue of SantaClauses.

A humble feast of festive creativity, A Very Cherry Christmas 2 2 remindsme of the only time I actually enjoyed going to Sunday school, albeit torender mischief, and while some old dogs fish around for the classics to fillloved ones’ stockings this year, I’ll stick with this. Tears, alcohol, divorce,Cash, Swedish pop and Santa’s erection. Happy Christmas indeed.

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