Alphabeat – X-mas (Let’s Do It Again)

Sleighbells and all sorts. It’s lovely.

Tim: Right – I’m on to a new bottle over here, how are you doing?

Tom: Considering taking it up.

Tim: You should, it’s wonderful. Now, I got to see this lovely band on tour last week, and they really do put on a stonking (yep) performance. There’s only one criticism I have: they didn’t play this.

Tim: Disappointing: the use of ‘X-mas’ in the title, and the fade out ending. It’s really not hard to write a convincing end to a song, so can’t you at least try?

Tom: Also, the synth is a blatant style-rip from Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime”, which – let’s face it – is pretty much the worst Christmas song to rip off the style from.

Tim: Also notable about that song: “simply” is in the wrong place in that line for it to mean what he means. Think about it.

Tom: I’m not trusting your Drunk Logic, but now you’ve pointed it out: that “simply” is just meaningless in context. It’s not being compared to anything. It’s just there to fill in two beats. God damn it, McCartney, this is the “in which we live in” from Live and Let Die all over again.

Tim: But appointing (I know that’s not the reverse of disappointing, but it should be): the rest of it. Sleighbells and all sorts. It’s lovely. A traditional Alphabeat song – even if it’s not got the most upbeat message, it’s still sung in a very happy way, and for anybody listening casually all it’ll do is reinforce the Christmas spirit. JOYOUS.

Unfortunately, as I said, it’s not got the most upbeat message. We started this week with “I love Christmas” and (probably) “I love you lots, wait a sec”, but now we’ve a Pogues-style “our relationship kind of sucks but it’s Christmas so let’s not split up”. There are two ways to interpret that: the charitable way is “I know you’re about to dump me, but don’t, because this should be a happy time”. That’s all well and good – happy, festive, all that. Just what we want from Alphabeat. And what we’ve got.

Tom: That’s charitable? That sounds like a bloody awful Christmas to me.

Tim: Charitable if we’re discussing the singer’s meaning. Compare it to the alternative subtext, which I’m almost ashamed came to me: “I know you’re about to dump me, but if we stay together you’ll have to get me a present and I, knowing you’re about to dump me, will happily get you a crap one. I win.”

I’M SORRY. I’m sure that’s not how the song works. THE SONG IS LOVELY. I LIKE IT.

Tom: I think Tim’s starting to sob into his port now, readers.

Dragonette – Merry Xmas (Says Your Text Message)

Here’s something a bit more promising.

Tim: I’ll be honest: while this does come with the obligatory sleigh bells, it’s not quite as enthusiastic about the festive season as the past couple of tracks have been.

Tom: It’s something a bit more promising. Dragonette’s best known for providing the vocals on Martin Solveig’s “Hello”, so at least this should sound decent.

Tom: You know, I think I actually like this, aside from that clunky “X-mas” bit – I understand why it’s there. And that’s a clever bit of censorship, too.

Tim: Sleigh bells have previously been used to indicate joy, festivity and general wellbeing; as far as I know, this is the first time they’ve been used to cover up obscenities, and for that reason alone I’m halfway to loving this track.

Tom: Of this week’s suggestions, I think it’s my favourite.

Tim: Figures. Miserable git.

Tom: That’s doesn’t mean I actively like it – it’s no Hurts – but it’s listenable.

Tim: It’s not as happy as the last two – it’s a Christmas breakup song, with all the disappointment that entails – but despite that, it still seems remarkably upbeat and happy. I think that might be a Titanix-glockenspiel effect, though – after all, how can something possibly sound downbeat when it’s going at 130 sleigh bells per minute?

Timoteij – Jag Kommer Hem Till Jul

“Still on the port, Tim?”

Tim: Let’s have another!

Tom: I should be clear here: as Tim Drunkenly Rants About Christmas Songs Week continues, I’m not just playing the cynical, bitter straight man for the hell of it. I really am cynical and bitter. Every damned producer releases a horrible cash-in Christmas track, and they’ve scarcely got any thought behind them.

Right. Deep breath. Onward. Still on the port, Tim?

Tim: Certainly am. Lovely stuff.

Tim: Now, annoyingly, I haven’t a clue what the lyrics mean, although I can tell you that the title translates to “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”, which is nice. My initial thought was to, quite sensibly, assume that it’s a direct translation of Bing Crosby’s 1943 wartime classic.

Tom: I think that’s unlikely somehow, given that’s it’s a completely different song.

Tim: Well, you say that, but I’m not convinced.

I do think that that would make it a bit depressing, though, and really doesn’t fit with the sleigh bells and all that, so I’ll reluctantly change my mind and assume it’s an original track with the basic meaning being “missing you at the moment, but it’s going to be awesome, and I’ll be there.”

Tom: And even I have to admit that it succeeds at that: it is nice, and well sung, and pleasant. In a world where Stop the Cavalry can be a Christmas classic, there’s no reason this couldn’t be.

Tim: It’s lovely. There’s no big overstated key change like yesterday – obviously there is one, but it’s presented calmly and gently. We’ve got a nice festive ballad which works perfectly well, and would fit wonderfully behind a video of gift-giving. Behind a video of a gym workout, not so much, but let’s just ignore that, shall we?

Tom: Hey, you work with the footage you have. Bit of a creepy stare at the camera right at the end, though.

Happy Hoes – Happy Ho Ho Ho

It’s the start of Tim Drunkenly Rants About Christmas Songs Week.

Tom: Brace yourselves, readers: it’s the start of Tim Drunkenly Rants About Christmas Songs Week here on Europlop. I’ll do my best to keep him in check.

Tim: No ranting here – CHRISTMAS IS GREAT, so let’s go! Barely three weeks to go, the festive songs are out in force; let’s have a listen to this one first.

Tom: I can’t even complain that it’s too early for this: it’s past Thanksgiving in the US, which I consider a reasonable point for starting the countdown to Christmas. But I’ll be honest, that title isn’t filling me with hope and festive spirit.

Tim: Now, I’m writing this on a Saturday night and X Factor’s just finished, so as you said earlier I’m really quite drunk on port, but I reckon that’s a BLOODY BRILLIANT Christmas song.

Tom: Well, I wouldn’t go that far. It’s competent, certainly, and a lot better than most of the cheap cash-in attempts that happen this ye– wait, what the hell is that middle eight?!

Tim: It’s GREAT. It features a rapping Queen Santa, and finishes with a joyous key change. I also love that the song features the line “I’m as happy as can be ’cause I love Christmas,” and that sums it up nicely.

Tom: Now, I know that lyrically, “Wonderful Christmas Time” isn’t exactly genius, but it’s light years above this. I think that rap bridge, and the appalling spoken interjections in the background during that last chorus, crossed it over to ‘awful’ in my head.

Tim: Hahaha – I actually somehow hadn’t noticed those spoken bits, and what ware you talking about? They make it EVEN BETTER.

It obviously won’t be featured on any Christmas compilations whatsoever (the group name they’ve chosen to release this under will probably take care of that), and so will never get the status of Wham or Shakin’ Stevens or any of that lot, but who cares?

Tom: Well, no-one, as far as I can tell. Not even the folks that wrote it.

Tim: This is get excited, jump around the room, utterly fantastic pop, and I think I’ve just dislocated one of my arms by throwing them around too enthusiastically.

Tom: Tim will get steadily drunker during this week’s reviews, folks, so it’s going to go downhill from here.

Saturday Flashback: Magnus Carlsson & Alcazar – Happy, Happy Year For Us All

Like Peter Andre with sleigh bells.

Tim: Last of the festive ones and ten years old now, here’s to 2012!

Tom: Dodgy grammar in the title, and a tune that sounds like Peter Andre with sleigh bells. This doesn’t bode well.

Tim: Oh come on. It’s a lot more in the vein of tradition pop than previous weeks have been, but this still has a sizeable number of fanfares and jingly things to convey the festive spirit, as if the lyrics weren’t enough.

Tom: Despite my initial skepticism, the chorus did win me over a bit. It’s by the numbers, of course, but it’s not going to get me off the dancefloor at an office Christmas party. If I worked at an office.

Tim: Alcazar are, as we should all know, also noted for their considerable success with a cover of Last Christmas, but this has the benefit of being both original and, unusually, more about the new year than Christmas itself. It’s a very upbeat message, and who could really dislike it? Well, except for that idiot at my work who insists that if it’s not from the 80s it’s rubbish.

Tom: And a happy new year to you too, Tim.

Saturday Flashback: Aqua – Spin Me A Christmas

Proper old-school.

Tim: One more Christmas song for you. And since it’s Christmas Eve, how about we make it a good one?

Tom: Wait, hang on – an Aqua single I haven’t heard of? Blimey. This should be… interesting.

Tom: Ah, “Presented in AquaScope” with a drum roll! Proper old-school.

Tim: Ahem, I think you mean ‘old-skool’. It was a sort of toe-dipping in the waters of a reunion, and it seemed to do the trick. The regurgitating of the Coca-Cola/red Santa always annoys me, but René’s portrayal of a drunken Santa stumbling into his igloo does somewhat make up for that…

Tom: When the other three arrived in the first scenes of the video, I thought “where’s René?”, and then immediately thought “wait, he’ll be playing Santa, of course”.

Tim: …as do the other lyrics such as ‘all the dreams of white Christmas are getting you wet’.

Tom: “Are you ready to get stuffed like a turkey” is in there somewhere too, as well.

Tim: And “this is the season where the Wham! song damages your head” – somewhat unfair, but also somewhat true.

Tom: And this isn’t a bad track, actually – if it wasn’t a novelty Christmas song, this’d be a fairly solid Aqua single on its own.

Saturday Flashback: Santa Quest – Santa’s A Scotsman

“Ridiculous? Or brilliant? I think brilliant.”

Tom: There are at least two things in this track that you’ll love, Tim. And I’ve got to say – even as someone who doesn’t like novelty Christmas songs, this still made me smile.

Tom: The first one is, of course, the ridiculous “Scotland The Brave” guitar solo.

Tim: Ridiculous? Or brilliant? I think brilliant.

Tom: The second…

Tim: Really is quite something.

Tom: …it is a brilliant key change, isn’t it? It’s got a Proper Outro as well, which I always appreciate.

Tim: They are good, aren’t they? Also with a Proper Outro is Westlife’s Queen Of My Heart, which also has some lovely festive-sounding chiming bells. I mention this purely because for no apparent reason whatsoever I’ve recently fallen in love with it.

Tom: Bit of a history to this one: Radio 2’s Ken Bruce took it on himself to promote it when it came out five years ago, and has played it once a year ever since. And BBC Scotland briefly banned it for its negative stereotypes of Scotsmen (“loved everywhere he goes?”).

Tim: I’m guessing “too many pies, not enough exercise”.

Tom: Despite all that: it’s got quite a bit of traction Up North, apparently.

Tim: Good. And why shouldn’t it? Aside from the previously mentioned negative stereotypes, I suppose.

Tom: They’ve since tried to create a dodgy sequel. But nothing can really take away from that guitar solo and key change, can it?

Tim: Really not, no. That one also has a weirdly buff-looking Santa, who with his coat open looks more like a Ken doll than your average boyo from the valleys.

Saturday Flashback: Inga from Sweden – Inga’s XXXmas

“Inappropriate for some users.”

Tim: We had a Christmas song last week; let’s keep the December flashbacks festive, shall we? So, not to be confused with Miss Inga from earlier this year, this lady really does call herself ‘Inga from Sweden’, and back in 2007 was asking Santa for a spank because she’s lonely.

Tom: “This video may contain content that is inappropriate for some users.” Well, this should be fun.

Tom: Hahaha. Effects provided by a knock-off copy of 3D Studio Max and a terrible bluescreen. Is that by the same people who did Hooked on a Feeling?

Tim: God, I’d forgotten about that. What is it with you and the Hoff? Anyway, there are a couple of things I’m not keen about this.

Tom: Is the music one of them?

Tim: Harsh. Though somewhat fair, but no. There’s the Santa that sounds creepy as anything, and then I really hope what’s going on at 1:17 isn’t what it looks like it could be, although I’m fairly sure it is. Overall, though, this has me smiling.

Tom: Wait, really? Why? I mean, I’m generally okay with ridiculous Christmas records, but this is just terrible.

Tim: You think? It’s partially because of the general ridiculousness of the video – standing on a burning ice sheet, treading water through the ice, that utterly nightmare-inducing dancing snowman – and also the spanking sound effects. They’re entirely wrong, but they’re brilliant.

Tom: You’ve gone off your rocker. Too much brandy and chocolate?

Tim: No, still a bit too early for brandy. I’m getting through a good amount of cava, though, left over from when my parents bought several cases too many for a thing a few weeks back, and that’s a lot of fun.

Shackles – A Christmas Kiss

There are sleigh bells.

Tim: Yes, it’s time for the first of this year’s festive tracks, and we start with one which, its promoter has informed us, has just crept into the iTunes Norway Top 100. Excited?

Tom: There are sleigh bells, Tim. Apparently it is possible to be cynical and excited at the same time.

Tim: Despite the somewhat lacklustre introduction I gave this, I do like this – the music’s cheerful, with a decent helping of said sleigh bells (SLEIGH BELLS!) throughout, the video’s got happy people and festive scenes in it, and the lyrics are happy and loving.

Tom: It’s never going to be a Christmas classic, but it’s nice enough.

Tim: Well, I say happy – should you not be in a relationship with someone who makes you feel there’s magic everywhere, and are depressed about it at this typically joyous time of year, this song really won’t help. In fact it’ll probably make you feel even worse. Should probably have put a warning at the start, really.

Tom: I wonder if there are any songs about quick shack-ups at the office Christmas party?

Tim: None that leap to mind, but any that do exist are probably the ones everyones tries to forget ever happened.

Saturday Flashback: Play – As Long As There’s Christmas

You’re going to love this.

Tim: You’re going to love this. Absolutely love it.

Tom: Ah, it’s December; which means that the Advent calendar of Christmas Saturday Flashbacks is starting up. All right, Tim; I’ll take the bait. Why am I going to love it?

Tim: Three reasons. The first is that I said on Thursday that Play have been unheard from since last December; this is true, but they did this back in 2007. It’s a cover of a song off (really, you’ll LOVE it) the straight-to-DVD 1997 Disney release Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, done for the Special Edition release.

Tom: Crikey, that’s obscure.

Tom: And, my word, that’s by the book Disney, isn’t it? I… damn it, I do like it. It’s just hitting every note, as a Disney Christmas song should.

Tim: Certainly is. The second reason is those trumpets in the chorus that I think are brilliant.

Tom: They are brilliant, and properly Christmassy. I’m guessing the third thing is the key change? ‘Cos it’s a top key change.

Tim: You are very very right. Those three aside, though, I don’t have much to say about it really. But those are three good things, and overall it’s just a bit nice, isn’t it?

Tom: That’s the epitome of a Disney Christmas song; in one ear, out the other, and it’s “nice”.