Year of Release: 1996 (on the album "I Was The King... I Really Was The King")
"I had a good Xmas - we stayed in a hotel - it must have been good, because she's still not talking to me and my lungs ache. They rack my body".
As Dylan Moran - a man probably not much at odds with the general philosophies of Animals That Swim - has pointed out before now, the British and Irish tend to measure how much of a good time they've had by how much they've screwed themselves up in the process, and that snatch of dialogue in "A Good Xmas" is therefore possibly more relevant to the season than anything else I'll upload this week. True, strictly speaking this isn't an ideal track for the office party, and nor do I suspect that the band were going for a feelgood vibe, but still... there's more Christmas in that one line than Wizzard ever managed.
Standing proudly upfront as the second track on their strongest album "I Was The King...", "A Good Xmas" lacks the linear narrative of most of the rest of the LP and instead snatches at images - the woolly-hat wearing builder-neighbour, passing buses, overheard conversations. Wintery as hell in its feel without being specifically festive in many places, it nails Zone 3-4 London life exquisitely, with a repetitive, insistent chorus which combines glam rock hand-clapping with the sarcastic line: "Made in Japan by my own sweet hand".
Besides being an excellent song in its own right, this is also a superb track to stick on a festive playlist if you're actually slightly at odds with the time of year - the bleary morning moodiness of the song conflicts with the clarion call of the trumpet parts, like a hungover man caught in the crossfire of a Salvation Army march. It shouldn't, but the whole thing makes me feel a lot warmer than "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday".
Animals That Swim actually reformed in 2011 and released a new single - but if you don't own "I Was The King... I Really Was The King", you should remedy that immediately. It stands up as being one of the finest albums of the nineties.