Monday, November 21, 2011

Emmy The Great & Tim Wheeler (Infectious) - This Is Christmas

It’s hard not to get your Scrooge on when you hear All I Want For Christmas Is You for the millionth time. Even the jolliest of elves must surely groan at the same tired standards spun again and again. So it’s always a welcome sight when a contemporary artist embarks on a Christmas project, particularly when the likes of The Killers and The Boy Least Likely To have achieved it with such aplomb.

So imagine our excitement when arguably one of the greatest songwriters of the past 20 years, Tim Wheeler, announced his plans for a Christmas album alongside singer-songwriter Emmy The Great. With Ash on hiatus, an offering from Wheeler in any guise is a blessing. That said, This Is Christmas doesn’t sound like an Ash record – but why should it? It’s a Christmas album first and foremost, and thus, making an album for Christmas is its only objective. Fun is very much on the agenda here, and if titles such as Jesus The Reindeer don’t convey that, then the content certainly will.

Marshmallow World is every bit as daft, merry and eggnog-fuelled as any version that’s come before it, while Home For The Holidays could well have been recorded by Same Difference with little altered. And that’s certainly no bad thing – This Is Christmas summons up a joyfulness that even the cheesiest of pop acts would shun these days in pursuit of that elusive Radio 1 playlist spot.

The result? An album full of high points. Snowflakes marries synth and sleigh bells for a starry-eyed, 80s-tastic ballad; (Don’t Call Me) Mrs Christmas is a 60s girl group swingalong with a dash or two of rock sensibilities; and the addictive, inventive Zombie Christmas makes for an unlikely, yet superb, yuletide ditty for the 21st Century.

Just as Ash’s new-single-every-fortnight project saw them add some startlingly different new classics to their catalogue outside the constraints of an album, the gimmick aspect of a Christmas record also throws up similar opportunities. So while This Is Christmas might not quite unveil a genre-defining anthem, it shuns all ideas of credibility or marketability or developing a ‘now’ sound. Such details have no place on an album where unadulterated, unpretentious fun takes centre stage, and it benefits from it greatly. The merriment is that much more merry, the romance that bit more romantic. Call it corny if you want, but it’s a Christmas album, not just by nature, but very much in spirit.

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