Album Review: Tinsel Machine – Various Artists

tinsel machineSo, a little late getting all that last minute Christmas shopping done? Well, as I’m writing this at a little past 11pm of Christmas Eve, you’d have to be pretty late with your presents, but hey, what about a last little Christmas treat for someone, or even you.

Isle of Man label Small Bear records have released a Christmas record, featuring artists from around the globe, from Baltimore to Sweden, to Blackpool and beyond. It features label favourites Postcode, alongside label chief Phil Reynolds and former U.K. Subs bassist Bri Slutcher. And, best of all, this is a present that’s going to cost you  nothing, available from the labels bandcamp site, although it’d be nice if you wanted to give them something, what with it being Christmas and all.

The record opens up with the magnificent Postcode, who contribute ‘Not Afriad’ this slice of proper DIY indie pop, complete with these guitar lines that switch between chiming and biting within the space of a beat. Following on from that comes indie punk band (and the aforementioned based in Blackpool group) Kraul with a take on Away in a manger, which manages to pull off a straight face until (almost) the end.

Dan Ankers was a founding member of Dragloops and weirdo, but is currently recording his debut album. His suitably gruff vocal is ideal to take on Chris Rea‘s Driving home for Christmas, which has the distinction in my mind to be one of the most awful songs ever to have been committed to, well, anything. Somehow though, his slightly innocent sounding indie pop suits the song a lot more, and makes it, almost unbelievably to me, likeable. Isle of Man singer songwriter follows it up with this almost haunting version of Feliz Navidad.

Head Honcho Phil Reynolds (alongside his Dearly Departed) come next, with Next Year Won’t be long enough, one of those Christmas songs that holds your heart in your mouth almost from beginning to end, while Bri Slutcher and The Gnasher Downham Experience continue with a slice of DIY punk, ramshackle (in a good way) and comedic, its nothing you haven’t heard before, but that doesn’t mean its not good. Hamburg’s Tom Ende provide one of the nicest moments of the record, with their noisy but sweet song Leichtes Scheinen being one of those songs that sticks in your mind.

There’s a complete change that follows with the 8-bit enthused electro pop of There’s nothing very interesting to say about snow’, which could have come out of here in Sheffield about 30 years ago, if you’d have stripped away all the new romantics self importance, and instead given them a sense of humour. Harmony Dischord provide the song Christmas Spirit to the album, which has this sort of slightly rowdy Arab Strap about it, and is followed by New Orleans based Belgian Phil The Tremolo King and is (as he describes it) Casiocore, this gentle study in indie pop with keyboards on his mashup ‘A walk in the Snow/Oh Tannenbaum

Londoner Matt Bouvier, who provides this rather grand sounding Electro in ‘Christmas Comes Again’. Nanaki take on All I want for Christmas is you, in a terribly affecting indie pop way, that makes you heart melt, rather than sink, which was as much of a surprise to me as it probably is to you reading, and Neurotic Wrecks Exmas follows on, like a cross between a makeshift Saint Etienne with Peter Hook on bass – seriously, how good does that sound.

Towards the end of the compilation comes Good Night, Sleep Tight, Christmas from Baltimore’s Expo, which begins like an outake from Wonderful Christmas Time, but turns out like a harmony laden but essentially simple little song. It’s easy to see why Julian Cope reputedly loves The Bordellos. They make this engaging, slightly organic sounding indie, but the melodies make it worthwhile, such are their quality, despite it’s downcast subject matter, and delivery.

There’s a little Skunk Anansie doing The Dead Kennedys  like (well, a bit) interlude from Klur Confused and the Fuckpigs, and their song Fuck Christmas, before the Y Shinkickwrs ends thing with his lovely, funny and touching performance poetry.

Merry Christmas one and all….


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