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Perhaps the high point of this collection comes when Robert Fripp’s solo slashes through the moody “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy,” overwhelming the plaintive voices of David Bowie and Bing Crosby. Fripp’s masterpiece of concise wailing is an unsung gem from the Heroes period—mainly because I made it up. Actually, this adjunct to Rhino’s 15-volume proto-alternative series is characterized as much by sweetness as wigginess: Check XTC’s “Thanks for Christmas” and Squeeze’s “Christmas Day,” the latter of which name-drops everything from tree lights to British comedy team Morecambe and Wise. Closest to true New Wave sound and spirit is They Might Be Giants’ Farfisa-driven “Santa’s Beard,” but this eclectic mix succeeds at providing a listenable experience for WHFS fans, complete with D.C. content in Root Boy Slim’s rare 1978 single “Xmas at K-Mart.” Still, a couple of complaints: Why Miracle Legion’s dreary “Little Drummer Boy” instead of Joan Jett’s turbocharged one? And what about Dread Zeppelin’s “All I Want for Christmas,” one of their most inspired Elvis/Zep/reggae creations ever, rather than the similarly titled, politically correct Timbuk 3 cut, which has aged badly? But it’s churlish to complain about a record so well-meaning that it stacks up a blindingly good Los Lobos “Rudolph the Manic Reindeer,” a vintage single by Matthew Sweet’s early Buzz of Delight, and even makes me care about Throwing Muses for a few minutes. Oh, and “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl—whadda tearjerker.
—Rickey “the Red-Nosed” Wright