It’s that time of year again. I say that; it’s been that time of the year since late September. It took a break around the end-of-October-beginning-of-November period. But, now it’s back and won’t go away until half-way through January. Of course, you all know what I’m talking about. It’s the most wonderfully tedious time of the year!
Don’t get me wrong, Christmas is fine. I enjoy the holiday and the presents and the food as much as anyone else. But, there are some things about this period that I find veritably scream-inducing. And, for me, the most irksome, the most mind-numbingly painful part of it all is not the cold, nor is it the jumpers that minimalism forgot. Neither is it the nigh on vulgar adornments that corrupt the structure of our homes like ivy. It’s not even the online, passive-aggressive, selfie-fuelled fight to the death to see who loves Christmas the most that we all engage in (second only to the eternal ‘who can upload the most baby photos’ social media battle royale).
No, the worst thing about Christmas – above all else – is the music. The incessant drone of Slade and Wizard and the patronising, self-congratulating tripe that is (all three incarnations of) Band Aid. Mariah Carey pretending to be in no way materialistic and George Michael pretending to like women. And then there’s Boney M.; I’ll just leave that one there. Even carols I just can’t abide. There aren’t many things that incense me more than being dragged along to a carol concert – and I’ve been hauled, kicking and screaming, to my fair share. One of the last things I’d ever want to do with my evening is fight my way through rain and hail to hear an ill-trained, pre-pubescent scrape his way through ‘Once in Royal David’s City’.
None of these songs are that bad, I know. But, it’s the same old twaddle every year. Every year! And there’s never anything new. Some years, the odd has-been feebly attempts to refuel the canon (nice try, Leona!). But for the most part, it’s an eternal, molten core of tinsel and snow and by-the-fire lyrics that burns white hot every year, inextinguishably emitting its own special brand of ‘cheer’ throughout our Christmas universe.
Last Christmas (don’t start), I was given a very alternative-looking red vinyl copy of Nerina Pallot’s ‘The Sound and the Fury’. Feeling very edgy, I played it out loud as I polished and set out the Royal Daulton. I found my perfect Christmas playlist in her song about the Woolwich murder, another about the suicide of a local girl, one that questioned the existence of God and another inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s dystopian novel. It’s an album that tells the truth about the current state of humanity.
And without trying to moralise, the Christmas playlist’s fatal flaw is the fact that it forces us to lie to ourselves; it doesn’t tell the truth. This is a time of year where we are all obliged to insist that the world is, in fact, a wonderful place. We pretend that we’re not surrounded by family we sometimes find it hard to love, that the weather isn’t appalling and that we didn’t resent having to spend so much money on one fundamentally pointless day—our music does the same thing.
What I’m trying to illustrate with this (un)forgivable piece of pessimism is that there is so much more beauty to be found in acknowledging the darkness and drawing the light out of it. As opposed to denying the darkness altogether and playing cheap melodies over the silence. Through music, Ms Pallot and many other artists achieve the former. So why do we waste our time with the latter?
Regardless, this is your day. If mindless escapism is your drug of choice, then that’s your prerogative. Despite this article, I’ll probably have to listen to my fair share of Slade in the next few weeks, so I won’t be able to maintain this sense of superiority for much longer. I can take some comfort in the fact that you will all be listening to ‘Fairytale of New York’, which, with its self-deprecating witticism and scathing love/hate badinage is truly a carol for the times.