12 Songs Of Christmas – Day Five
Half Man Half Biscuit – “It’s Cliched to be Cynical at Christmas”
Over 12 (working) days, I’m suggesting 12 songs that probably don’t get the airplay they deserve this time of year and should be regarded as Christmas/Seasonal Classics.
You probably wouldn’t expect Birkenhead’s finest poet (Wilfred who?) to write a straightforward Christmas song. And yet, Pam Ferris’s favourite band Half Man Half Biscuit’s classic “It’s Cliched to be Cynical at Christmas” has all the festive elements in place: a cherubic sounding choir, bells, a sprinkling of the 17th-century classic “I Saw Three Ships,” and references to “Jingle Bells” and piney smells. But whereas many post-punk bands would write a cynical song about Christmas, with a view to being “edgy,” Nigel Blackwell instead wags a finger at the joyless cynics.
I asked him recently about the song, which came from their 2000 album “Trouble over Bridgwater,” and he responded, ‘I Can’t honestly recall much about our Christmas song… I was probably starting to roll my eyes around that time at the predictability of folk letting you know how much they hated Christmas, and often when certain viewpoints become de rigueur, then I’m usually looking to get onto the nearest rooftop and erm… sort it out with an imaginary Kalashnikov so to speak. It was either that or we simply found some bells in the studio cupboard. Obviously, we never play it live unless it’s April or similar.’
An alternative classic that manages to be moving, funny, acerbic, and for want of a better word, “Christmassy*.”
*Ducks hail of bullets from imaginary Kalashnikov.
And your smile has a fee
All the same, here’s a card
For your boring facade
Jingle Bells, piney smells
All the boys and the girls
Say it’s cliched
To be cynical