This week's Garden Of Earthly Delights hands itself over to Christmas. There's been a lot of things I said I would never do this year, showing aging doesn't mean set in his ways. I've usually baulked at Top 10's, never seen the point. I had them as something that music fans do to avoid fixing the leak in the shed. Well there will be some on here as well as a Smash Hits / NME type of thing, presenting ridiculous awards in made up categories.
Secondly, I've always avoided Christmas Song Reviews. I've left Christmas to my good friend Stephen Schnee who covers them in a way that makes all others redundant. It's the forced jollity that does me. Every time someone says it's X sleeps until Christmas, I reach for the wet fish and a slapping session. It's days not sleeps, you are not ten blah blah etc etc.
There are positives, you get to see Roy Wood once a year, but if I never heard Last Christmas again, it would be too soon, even if it was for someone special. See what I did there? But seeing as The Garden Of Earthly Delights is about choosing four recordings and there are four such things around this year, it makes sense to tell you about them.
The Bordellos - The Bordellos Do Christmas
I spent most of my growing up in St. Helens, a town aided by it's proximity to Liverpool for the musically inclined. It was always a bugbear that we had no musician to celebrate from the town. We clutched on to Gravy Train who had largely been and gone by the time Senior School started and there was Bernie Clifton who did some appalling covers of the songs in the chart on Crackerjack.
As the 80's rolled on after New Romantic's dismal years, we even tried to adopt Rick Astley, he was from the Borough, but Newton isn't St. Helens. Now, of course, we've got Jacqui Abbott and there is one special band to mention in between.
The Bordellos are magnificent. Anywhere else and they would be celebrated from the roof tops, instead we'd rather celebrate some young lady shouting the life out of Hero or Hallelujah. People who look to other things than the TV and local press, know how magnificent they are. Their lo-fi indie credentials can stand up with anyone.
Brian Bordello is an unsung hero, the wit and invention that goes into his writing should have him compared to the likes of Mark E. Smith and Martin Newell. It's the true that what he does isn't for everyone, but there are more than enough people out there who like similar artists that should be delving into their Back Catalogue. The Bordellos should be more than a Cottage Industry.
So we have six original songs here that use all the tricks of the trade that have been learned over a fabulous recording career. Don't expect a wall of sound, but do expect to have your thoughts provoked. You can download the EP here for Free and you should head off there when you've read the rest of this post. I'd suggest you bookmark it now.
The Minus 5 - Dear December
Scott McCaughey's current Stroke related illness, puts this release in perspective, particularly at this time of year. His R.E.M. credentials have always been there to see, but The Minus 5 has always leaned more towards Indie Power Pop and it's splendid that it does.
Here we have 11 new songs for the Festive Season. Peter Buck as ever is present as head Guitar Boy and there are guest appearances from The Posies, Mike Mills, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, Chuck Prophet, Tammy Ealon, Kelly Hogan and more.
It's an absolute joy to listen to, wonderfully melodic, a perfect accompaniment to the Sherry and Mince Pies. You can listen to and buy it here.
Lisa Mychols - Winter Is Here
Few would argue that Power Pop can be a Boy's Club, but Lisa Mychols has consistently challenged this. Her Sunshine Pop and Sugar Sweet Vocals are joyous. Everything seems so much brighter when she sings.
Those vocals come in somewhere between Susanna Hoffs and Kirsty MacColl, but the beauty is that everything is upbeat and jangly. On In Love With Love, Mychols even sounds Spectorish. Mr Santa is all New Wave.
These six songs but the Merry into Merry Christmas. If this is a time for positivity and celebration, this should be the soundtrack. You can listen to the EP and buy it here.
Cheap Trick - Christmas Christmas
The fourth of the four is given to my long time favourites, Cheap Trick, This could have been a disaster, particularly with only three originals amongst the 12 songs. But Cheap Trick pull it off due to the sheer delight of it all.
There are the obvious Slade and Wizzard covers, the band obviously want to contribute to Roy Wood's pension fund with their constant raiding. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday is rocked up though with Rick Nielsen's guitar.
It's the covers away from the obvious that are most interesting though, Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight) and particularly Nilsson's Remember Christmas. Robin Zander's vocal on the latter is wonderful and in fact throughout, this sounds like a Zander album, his pipes are in fine form.
The three new songs include a guitar less, choir accompanied, Our Father Of Life and a song that may make it onto Christmas playlists for years to come in Merry Christmas Darlings. That song is classic Cheap Trick, everything that they do well is contained within. included the cheery lounge like interlude. The album is available everywhere.