20 December 2007

Wild Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire - 'Christmas 1979'

For someone who would never describe himself as a fan of the festive season, I seem to have acquired a lot of Christmas-related music over the years. In those glorious Decembers when we give the slip to the seasonal ritual of endless family visits - not, alas, this year - and instead huddle quietly in our East London hovel turning our unsociable backs on the outside world, I make up Christmas playlists to accompany proceedings. These lists get longer and longer each year. Of course this grotesque festival of greed and consumption could not be considered complete without the fragile masterpiece that is Low's Christmas LP getting its annual spin. But did I really need to chuck that five CD Sufjan Stevens box set into the mix last year?

There's been a real trend in recent years amongst those who make unpopular, left field music of the kind I have accumulated in vast quantities these past two decades to make Christmas records, presumably guided by the spirit of that cheapest of devices, irony. These are, in the main, not as good as records by the same people that aren't about Christmas. But still, I keep on buying them, so who's the tosser here? I recently, for example, bought three volumes of Christmas tunes from Cherryade Records, and will I even listen to them?

But Billy Childish, in his various incarnations, I'll always have a soft spot for. I'm glad there are people like him around the place. Sure, what you get here is what even fleeting familiarity with his back catalogue would have you expect: ridiculously reductive, back to basics rock and roll from that alternate universe where music is held to have reached its apotheosis with the early work of The Who. I don't want everything to be like this, but I don't mind a bit of it. So here the Medway's finest son gives us a tale of being on 'punk leave' from gigging in Hamburg at around the time we bade farewell to the seventies and witnessing a fairly typical festive breakdown, shackled to artlessly primitive backing.

My advice is to get this and play it loud and often this yuletide, particularly if there are any cloth-eared visiting family members you want to annoy. This is a great 7" from those purveyors of ramshackle thrills, Damaged Goods, even if the accompanying entire LP of Christmas songs is a bit much. Of course I bought that too.

Merry fucking Christmas, indeed.

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