by Jak Phillips
Festive songs are crap, let's face it. Some might scream sacrilege, but any arena where the likes of Cliff Richard, the Spice Girls and Slade are able to flourish should most definitely be banished to the North Pole. Sadly, the sentimental masses insist on a saccharine soundtrack to their festive frivolities, so Christmas songs aren't likely to disappear any time soon. With that said, it doesn't have to be the same old rubbish every year, so here are our top 10 alternative Christmas songs to get you through the festive period with your marbles intact.
The Wombats: Is This Christmas?
Like pretty much all of The Wombats songs, this is a perfect blend of despairing lyrics sang against a backdrop of upbeat instrumentals. Bemoaning burnt turkeys and far-flung festive cheer, this tune is incredibly catchy and manages to paint a far more accurate portrayal of Christmas with the family than anything Sinatra could muster.
Bo Selecta: Proper Crimbo
"On the twelth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a Perrequin Falcon proper bo' I tell thee." It's nonsensical lyrics like this that cause Avid Merrion's Bo Selecta emporium to divide the British public more vociferously than marmite. But with hilarious cameos from rubber-chinned "Bo" regulars Craig David and Michael Jackson, there's a reasonably good chance this song will woo you over to the "Love it" camp for a couple of listens at least.
Rage Against The Machine: Killing in the Name of ...
The "anti-Christmas song" if ever there was one. In 2009, internet campaigners got behind Rage Against the Machine's ultimate ode to anarchy in protest at Simon Cowell's stranglehold over the Christmas charts, and by taking it to number one, succeeded in delivering a (high-waisted) body blow to the music mogul's ego. Delightfully loud and proud – this song doubles as the perfect way to wake your grandpa up when it's his turn at Trivial Pursuit.
The Futureheads: Christmas was Better in the 80's
Having not witnessed it myself, I'd need to consult with Viet Nam News readers (or indeed writers) to confirm this claim, but accurate or not, it's a cracking tune. It starts off as a slow burner but quickly explodes into a strangely compatible blend of Van Halenesque power chords and Queen operetta circa "Bo Rhap". Only released in 2010, this one could yet become a new Christmas classic.
Ja Rule: How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Chain-slamming, ho-slapping gangster rapper Ja Rule shows his sensitive side with this heart-warming reading of the classic Christmas tale for Jo Whiley's radio show. As well as getting better every time you hear it, this gem also manages to make listening to Whiley's show bearable for at least 12 days of the year – now she just needs something for the other 353.
Marvin Gaye: Christmas Song
Motown-legend Marvin Gaye's soulful take on a Christmas classic rarely makes it onto festive compilation CDs, making it all the more worthy of a mention in this list. One could liken the warmth and sweetness in Gaye's voice to a steaming Christmas pudding and when he concludes with a crooning "Merry Christmas to you", it feels almost obligatory to respond with a "Merry Christmas to you too Marvin" – no matter how many family members look at you like you might be slightly barmy.
Jethro Tull: A Christmas song
Luton's favourite sons put the English town on the list with their jazz inspired rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Described by some as "Aqualung in a santa suit", the dazzling array of flute, guitar and keyboard solos are guaranteed to put you in a good mood without having to reach for Bing Crosby LP.
The Strokes: Take it or leave it
Having recently looked into changing my surname to Casablancas by deed poll, I must confess I'm slightly biased towards New York's greatest garage rockers. But their concert-closing classic "Take it or leave it" serves as a perfect summary of the awkwardness surrounding gift giving. If grandma isn't happy with her foot spa come present time, give her a blast of this anthem to Indie irreverence and she'll be sure to pipe down.
Kings of Leon: Revelry
A song about blaming shameful antics on "revelry" seems perfectly apt for this time of year. The intro ignites with a chorus of bells, evoking visions of an M&S advert complete with crackling fire and gravy cascading over a turkey. Better still, you're treated to Caleb Followill's soul-piercing vocals as opposed to the ear-piercing sound of Ellie Goulding butchering a classic.
Goldfrapp: Winter Wonderland
The London dance duo impart their unique brand of ethereal ambience with a masterful cover of – what was already – a Christmas classic. The eerie vocals take this song in a whole new direction and you're left with the feeling that this is what The Snowman might have sounded like had NME been in charge of the music. — VNS