Episode 14 - A merry little alternative Christmas

There's something about Christmas that can make even the most hardened of garage bands relent. The Sex Pistols always reckoned the best gig they ever did was Christmas Day in the afternoon when they played a children's party. Freed from the requirements of acting cool, they just enjoyed themselves. They just were themselves.

Perhaps that's the thing. For happy, well-adjusted types the thought of returning to the bosom of your family where it all began is an enticing prospect. You sense that Julian Casablancas, the archetype of New York cool, actually means it when he sings I Wish it Was Christmas Today. That cynical old rock chick Chrissie Hynde wants her partner to be with her at Christmas of all times with the Pretenders' 2000 miles. Less surprisingly, Christian alt-rockers Low sound horrified when they sing "it wasn't like Christmas at all", on Just Like Christmas.

But for others the Yuletide season is all about the fear and loathing. The titles say it all really. Thank God it's not Christmas (Sparks). That was the worst Christmas ever (Sufjan Stevens). Merry Christmas (I don't want to fight tonight) (The Ramones). Christmas will break your heart (LCD Soundsystem). Ominously, So much wine (The Handsome Family) and Under the stairs (De Rosa). Brutally, Christmas is cancelled (The Long Blondes).

But I'm also reminded of a journalist who returned home to his house in Essex for the season. Every Christmas Day his family and the one from down the street he'd grown up with shared a sherry together in the morning. That family was the Albans and there was Damon Albarn, lead singer of Blur, just about the biggest group in Britain at the time, making small talk with various aunts and uncles. He exchanged strained smiles with the icon of Britpop, dressed in a colourful jumper featuring reindeer, from the opposite side of the suburban drawing room.

That's the spirit. Best summed up by Half Man Half Biscuit: It's cliched to be cynical at Christmas. Tracklist:-

I was born on Christmas Day, St Etienne

Just like Christmas, Low

Frosty the Snowman, Cocteau Twins

That was the worst Christmas ever, Sufjan Stevens

Merry Christmas, Mark Kozelek

Santa Claus, The Sonics

Merry Christmas (I don't want to fight tonight), The Ramones

Thank God it's not Christmas, Sparks

It's cliched to be cynical at Christmas, Half Man Half Biscuit 

So much wine, The Handsome Family

Under the stairs, De Rosa

I wish it was Christmas today, Julian Casablancas

Christmas will break your heart, LCD Soundsystem

Christmas is cancelled, The Long Blondes

2000 miles, The Pretenders