Title: Smells Like Christmas Spirit
Label: Small Bear Records
Keywords: Alternative, Indie, Shoegaze
Reviewer: Alex Spaldingclaus
‘Twas a month before x-mas
And all through the West,
Lots of people were sleeping
(They needed the rest)
For just after All Hallows Eve had gone by
And the pumpkins were only then made into pie
Everyone knew that the holiday season
Was imminent, exploited far beyond reason
The TVs would blare like the trumpets of hell
Brimming with garbage that needed to sell
Whilst the children, with glee, would sit glued to the box
Desiring rubbish to fill up their socks
And, worst of all, were the Fridays of Black
When retailers, swooned by some marketing hack
Would stir up the monster of ravenous spending
And people would go out in hordes never-ending
All just to buy up the newest dumb thing
At hours of morning you’d think were obscene
Driving all over, ignoring the dangers
Fighting with crowds of delirious strangers
While horrible, saccharine music would play
To the chagrin of multitudes, caught in the fray
Play’d for months at a time, at the end of each year
‘Twas enough to imagine you’d stab out your ear
And, madly, this circus procession endured
Despite protestations from all the inured
About “x-mas spirit” and other mad cries
Held together with tinsel and packaged with lies
Yet, faraway, on the Isle of Man
There dwelt a strange creature, a huge x-mas fan
And he sang and recorded his own x-mas tunes
Along with a rabble of sad x-mas loons
Annu-ally he’d bestow a new comp
Of terrible tunes that were always a romp
As if slogging through snow in a wet pair of socks
While afflicted by cold and a case of the pox
Now, though, we come to a part of this tale
Where the poem should end, just before it grows stale;
A place in which some sort of prose is required
To speak of the music Phil Reynolds inspired…
Ah, hello, and welcome to a vomit-inducing review for the holidays. A few years back, I reviewed a really horrible x-mas album by Phil Reynolds, and though I may have skipped a year or three, I felt I might make reviewing this garbage a new tradition over here at Yeah I Know It Sucks.
I was originally going to review this thing a year ago, but just kind of felt like… nah… I think, maybe, I just didn’t wanna have to listen to it. Well, I’m feeling particularly masochistic tonight, so I figured, what the hell? So, let’s give it a spin. It surely isn’t the worst thing happening in the world right now! Just looking at the length of the tracklist is making me nauseous…
… it begins with ‘Taking It Back’, by our lovely Phil Reynolds and the Herald Angels. The music isn’t bad, but it also doesn’t feel very much like a x-mas tune. It just sounds like a lost grunge alt-rock single from ’94. Maybe that’s what they were going for, though, with that Nirvana-inspired album art.
‘Switch Off’, by Postcode, keeps the grunge vibe going. Right now, the whole thing reminds me of those sampler discs I used to find in music magazines years ago. This track is alright, the vocals are cool.
The next track is by Les Bicyclettes De Belsize, and is called ‘It Only Snows At Christmas’. Ugh. It’s a bit bright and jingly, but here, the x-mas lameness is finally revealed. It’s one of those gross, warm, ornaments on a palm tree, surf’s up for x-mas type tracks, like, I really didn’t need any more of this in my life.
‘Christmas On The Dole’, by The Barefoot Dancer, is just… well, okay, it starts off with some disgusting x-mas bells, then we hear an exaggerated vinyl backspin rip, and then we go into a kind of electro pop thing, a glistening turd being polished for the holidays, such absolute cheese.
Featherfin is next, with ‘When The Snow Was Whiter’. More electronic sounds at the start, some ambient guitar fuzz… the vocals are like… whispers of sugar butts dancing in your head.
Then, it’s The Bordellos, with ‘Another Hate-Filled Christmas’. Ho ho ho. It’s like, about what I felt it would be…
… ‘Christmas Girl’, by The South London Lo-Fi Explosion is okay at first, with the breakbeat. I lost interest by the time the vocals came in.
Reverend BoomBoom comes on then, with ‘Listening To Otis Redding At Home During Christmas’. It’s some acoustic guitar x-mas times, best avoided.
‘Another Lo-Fi Christmas’, by Harmony Dischord, is not my favorite thing on here so far.
‘Abandon’, by Slow Decay, has fuzzy, harmonic atmospheres and an electro groove, so at first I’m okay with it. I can feel the tension rising, however, as at any time I am expecting x-mas to rear its hideous head. Instead, there is an infusion of further guitar layers. The vocalist is a bit like Nosferatu, somewhere between Peter Steele and late Nick Cave. The track is not bad, I guess, very goth.
Then, the next thing is ‘Christmas Day’, by Phil the Tremoloking. Lots of cool lo-fi sounds, tube amp vibes, some bells. As far as the x-masy lyrics go, though, just not a fan.
This Heel comes in afterward, with ‘Elves’. The title alone worries me. What am I in for? Well, apparently, a 1990s adult contemporary groove, followed by some simple soundchip synths and a sampled upright bass. Not horrible. May be the best thing on here. Can’t say I hate it. It suffers slightly from existing in the context of this album.
A bit of guitar here on ‘All The Angels Sang’, by The Doubtful Sounds. It’s very… blech. I just couldn’t bring myself to get through it.
‘December’ is by Marc Elston. It’s a bit strange, with its oscillating pattern, sawtooth bass wash, acoustic drums, but the vocals get a ‘no’ from me.
Jules Verne Theory is next, with their track, ‘Footfall’. It’s atmospheric, kinda groovy at first, but the vocals… like, man, wow, that keeps feeling like a major problem here on this compilation, and I really think it could be an issue with the theme.
Then, it’s ‘112 Seconds Of Christmas’, by Matt Kelly, which sounds already like 112 seconds too long, with its jangly acoustic guitar and blandness, and the vocals welcoming to partake in some kind of yuletide ritual.
Nanaki is up afterward, with ‘The Capitalists That Ruined Christmas (Bastards)’. I mean, I can get down with anger toward capitalism, but the rest of that sentiment eludes me. We’ve got some pretty strings that don’t really move me, some bells, some slow beats, the whole thing feels a bit melodramatic, especially with the big guitar section.
Next is Neurotic Wreck, with ‘Saviour’s Day’, a kind of dancy electronic thing with some cheese guitar and vocals, and it just doesn’t add up. I laughed at one point, because I thought I heard him say something about Satan’s Day. Anyway, the good news is that this is getting closer to being over.
Alice Dudley’s ‘Sweet Nightingale’. The voice is nice. Not really into this so much, but it’s not bad.
Okay, so that brings us to ‘Christmas Or Something’, by Skyline Advantage. It sucks. Specific problem I’m having is with getting beaten over the head with some rock, after that previous, mellow piece. Ouch!
Matt Bouvier’s ‘All I Got For Christmas’ starts off with bells, in a fairly predictable move for a x-mas track. Unfortunately, it only goes downhill from there.
Still not done! ‘White Christmas’ is by Avaleya & The Glitterhawks, which is a cover of ‘White Christmas’, just as I’d feared. It’s like moving through a brown x-mas sludge, getting slower and slower, sinking, drowning in it, gasping for that last x-mas breath.
‘Winter Song’, by The Reporters, starts off promising, but soon disappoints, when you remember you’re listening to a x-mas compilation and that nothing is going to really break that mold. The sounds are cool, cavernous distortion with chorus, a sort of raw rhythm, guitar leads.
Next, unfortunately, is ‘Not Coming Home’, by Gharials. It sounds interesting, but I find myself irritated by this point and just can’t say anything more positive about anything I’m hearing here.
Finally, the last song: another track called ‘December’, by A Journey Of Giraffes. Well, it starts with feedback, some bells in there, which is fine. Some sections feel like a slow-motion bore, but there are vocal choruses and weird noises and toward the end it has kind of a bizarre Beach Boys vibe, but really experimental, so it’s actually pretty okay.
Alright, so… I can’t recommend you listen to this, but I’m going to put a link down below, just in case you wanna click on it and listen anyway, despite my protestations to the contrary. Until next time!