Various Artists

It's a Cool Cool Christmas

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It's a Cool Cool Christmas compiles holiday songs from 21 alternative artists; some bands cover traditional tunes, while other bands present original, self-penned numbers. Grandaddy's "Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland" might be the funniest song from 2000. The band seems deadly serious, as vocals decry, "In a meadow we will build a snowman and pretend that he is Alan Parsons." There are many touches of humor in these generally charming songs. "Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas" by Eels might be the first Christmas song to include the lyrics "Baby Jesus... born to rock." El Vez mixes a cover of "Feliz Navidad" with a cover of Public Image Limited's "Public Image." It's inspired good fun. Belle and Sebastian, whose Jeepster label released the album, put forth a touching, straightforward rendition of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." It is one of those Belle and Sebastian tracks that allows most band members to take a turn on vocals. Giant Sand's contribution sounds like a haunted Bruce Springsteen contribution to an album that might be called "A Very Creepy Christmas." One of the biggest disappointments of the album comes via the Flaming Lips. Their cover of "White Christmas" displays little of the majesty found on the The Soft Bulletin. It's good that their track includes the word "demo" in the title; that's exactly what it sounds like, as it's not nearly as funny as intended. The second half of the album might be even better than the first. Six By Seven's "I Believe in Father Christmas" is some sort of post-modern classic. Saint Etienne's track has Sarah Cracknell singing a Billy Fury song as if it's a Martin Gore ballad; that's a good thing. "Christmas Downer," a Departure Lounge original, affects a decent Phil Spector impersonation in a touching ode to holiday sorrow. Teenage Fanclub's song is mostly instrumental; it ends far too soon. Calexico and Gorky's Zygotic Mynci submit gentle, lilting songs of understated grace. The danger of most rock-based Christmas compilations is that there's usually not a great deal of holiday spirit in the songs. With contributions from bands considered to be some of the "coolest" artists of their era, It's a Cool Cool Christmas actually gets things right. Even if some tracks aren't entirely successful, the album as a whole is, without a doubt, one of the better alternative, holiday collections.

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