Compilations like Avalanche Records Alternative Christmas are vitally important. Their necessity will be emphasised repeatedly over the next few days: they will provide solstice-solace when even mordant irony can’t get you through looped Wizard and their dreams of eternal festivities; they’ll help salve the post-colonial guilt bruises caused by constant celeb-slapping; and they’ll sooth those caught idly humming Another Rock n' Roll Christmas then anxiously fretting about the Glitterism.
Alternatives are essential. Nothing from this collection will supplant Noddy and co from next year’s Christmas adverts, of course; fewer still will wind up sound-tracking office parties (though X-Lion Tamer’s Little Drum Machine Boy might sneak in at the end of a more liberal shindig). But they’re sure to find a place in many a heart, even post-yule when the tree stands naked and detinseled and the Quality Streets are reduced to wrappers.
In fact, the only real disappointment is that so many have ignored Half Man Half Biscuit’s sage advice (It’s Clichéd to Be Cynical At Christmas), choosing gloom over joy. But they sure do blue well: Frightened Rabbit donate 2007's (and 2008's) It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop, a majestic plea for goodwill that ends defeated with the cry “next day life goes back to its past self”; The Savings & Loan’s Christmastime In the Mountains’ maudlin moroseness is presumably not a tale of skiing in Aspen; Withered Hand’s It’s A Wonderful Lie (as in, “this used to be a holy day but now…”) turns its glum pun into a typically witty but self-deprecating waltz; while Meursault’s playful retitling of Phil Ochs’ No Christmas in Kentucky (rechristened Christmas in Kirkcaldy) is no less serious for its east coast relocation. Ballboy, Eagleowl and Broken Records, meanwhile, recycle existing material (some with a fairly tenuous tie to the holidays, truth be told), but when the tracks are as good as Shallow Footprints In The Snow, Sleep The Winter and All So Tired, frugal redistribution is nothing to fret over.
And it’s not all coal-in-stocking/turkey-dinner-for-one depression either: There Will Be Fireworks open with a characteristically panoramic swell which just manages to stay dry skating over the thin ice of Snow Patrol, while Zoey Van Goey’s spoken word In Scotland It Never Snowed, In Canada It Did engrosses with its simple tale of childhood rebellion. And at £5 with proceeds going to charity, it sure beats block-buying Rage Against the Machine.