A horrible hack


A Not Rock Holiday Compilation – volume 4

Year Released: 2012
Format: CD
Label: Not Rock Records
Reviewed by MH on Dec 11, 2012
This here is a 24-song compilation of Christmas songs. For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to review this one. Mainly as I am on a flight to Australia where I will be spending Christmas without the usual Christmas staples like roast turkey, snow or fake snow covering everything and Slade songs. I will also be here on this flight for 25.50 hours including 2 stops. I figured that makes it about one song per hour so would be within my capabilities. All of these bands are new to me. The label has previously released some good stuff by the likes of Insouciant. Let’s hope there are some corkers in amongst them. Every Christmas I geekily try and make a playlist of Christmas songs on my computer and am left with the usual suspects every time – Low, Belle & Sebastian, various terrible Christmas cover versions by the likes of Jimmy Eat World plus that Carter USM song where they added chiming Christmas bells to release "Shopper's Paradise" on a 7inch for their gig at the Town & Country Club in 1991. Oh yeah and that Mega CIty Four song that starts "Christmas is years away and I can hardly wait...." - "January" - that's the one! I am hoping some of these tracks will find their way on to some of my future Christmas playlists. What greater accolade could there be?

Please bear in mind that I am suffering from a lack of oxygen up here and am hindered by the noise of the engine, a bad 24-hour diet of aeroplane food and wine that tastes like it has been recycled through about 50 human digestive systems before it got to me.

24 Christmas songs - let’s go!

1. Jonathan Gusoff kicks this off with 44 seconds of Fleet Foxes-style vocals doing a Christmas song. Would easily fit on one of the old classic Christmas records my Dad used to play at home. Cheery!

2. Skateboard Kyle deliver a garagey, noisy thing with ghostly, wobbly vocals.

3. Little Light's track is a bit of an indie rocker and not bad at all.

4. Synthy version of a Christmas carol ("God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen) that is all a bit warped and 80s-sounding. This is by No Yeah (feat. KIO) Spacey. I can’t work out if it is a Christmas carol or just nicks the chorus.

5. Melissa Lucciola is up next. Female vocals – bit of a rocker – sounds like The Gossip gone a bit crazy on the mulled wine. There are even "ho-ho-ho's" in this one.

6. Quirky rocker from John Fisher and Molly Farrell with interchanging male/female vocals. I like this one. Seems to be about December rather than Christmas. Actually I prefer the start of it – it loses its way a bit but then has a nice big sing-al-ong ending.

7. Tabitha Mancini – nice and miserable track with warbly vocals over a lone guitar. Again I can’t work out if it is a direct cover version of the original. Could be Waxahatchee if Katy overdosed on cider and got less sad about personal stuff and started getting upset about the weather.

8. The Human Era are up next and this one starts with the sound of sleigh bells. Shoegazy vocals to start with. Poppy. Probably closest thing to a proper Christmas song since track 1....apart from the one that was taken from a Christmas Carol.

9. BDFM - this one sounds ancient. Strong accent. Too comedic. Is there a mandolin on this one? It deteriorates into screaming briefly and names some of the reindeer. Sounds a bit like George Formby if he was born in 1976.

10. Spectacular Christmas-like instrumental opening from the band, fragmnts. I can picture a snow-filled scene outside Harrods. It then goes a bit dancey towards the end. Might appeal to Explosions In The Sky fans who would like to know what they would sound like if they were forced to buy all their instruments from Argos.

11. The Balverines offer up a lo-fi acoustic thing. Also has a keyboard or at least a keys-like instrument in the background. Drag The River or Lemonheads fans *might* go mad for this one.

12. Please Exist are up next. This is a heavier number with down-tuned guitars and yelled vocals. This one doesn’t sound like Christmas. This one sounds like how my brother reacted at his 6th birthday party in McDonalds, Uxbridge in 1984 when he realised that his friend Paul had bought him the Man-E-Faces He-Man figure that he had already been given by my Mum. He roared "I've already got this one!" before giving Paul a big clout to his chops and ruined the party! This one is really an ode to all spoilt brats at Christmas time the world over!

13. Here comes a folky quiet thing from Makeout Vertigo with swearing and male vocals with female backing vocals. I can't say if I like it or not, all I know is I don't want to hear it again right now.

14. We Used To Love do a cover version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” – kind of a light punk version of the song. Pretty sure it is true to the original lyrics.

15. Hides A Well’s track is quite nice - it sounds a little like Belle & Sebastian – light 90s-style indie and avoids sounding like a Christmas song until the end when the lyrics are obviously Christmassy.

16. Young Legs offer up an understated, dreamy track. Kind of nice. Something of a Kings of Convenience vibe on the harmonies on this one.

17. Next up is Riley Stallings who deliver a warped version of “Frosty The Snowman”. I know that my 6 year old nephew is doing this in the Carol evening for the parents and he'd probably go mad for a bit of this.

18. The next song is Where Is My Spaceship? and their track title looks like it was written by Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) seeing as it is 22 words long. It’s not bad – bit of a slow indie track – a bit rocky too and with warbly vocals

Is anyone still reading or interested? I lost interest hours ago somewhere after Singapore.

19. Disseriph’s song is a sad song about being in an igloo. The acoustic guitar sound on this track is some nice finger-picking and hammers on and off. The vocals are a little on the sad side. Might even whack it on my playlist!

20. Rabbit Velvet take track 20 and go all out with a +7minute corker. This one is some warped but slow dancy sounds and female vocals. Sounds like Lamb if they got a dose of salmonella from the turkey 3 days after Christmas.

21. Ezra Lowrey’s track starts with some nice sounds and hand claps. Then the vocals come in and sound like they are from an old 50s flick. It’s quite nice. I’m not sure I’d listen to this one normally but it’s not terrible.

22. Tabitha Mancini makes her second appearance here – this one is more instrumental – downbeat and a bit experimental and ambient. Nice.

23. Joey’s track is downbeat again – this is getting less Christmassy as the album goes on. This track isn’t bad – pleasantly haunting female vocals with light, jangly guitars that get fuzzier towards the end. Could be Comet Gain drunk on my Dad’s cheap whisky.

24. Sean Milo brings the album to a close. His track features understated vocals over some gentle acoustic fingerpicking. It is called “Hibernate” and also avoids sounding too Christmassy. This is like Dads on vocals with Jose Gonzalez on the acoustic guitar.

And we are done. I will definitely stick a few of these on my playlist. Not sure how many I will listen to again outside the Chrismas period but I think that's the point!


NB. This is now being sent from the ground in Brisbane, Australia.

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