Twenty-five years into their superlatively successful career, Pet Shop Boys had never actually managed a Christmas release – 1997’s one-off It Doesn’t Often Snow at Christmas remains an extremely sought after one-off fan club release, and their Christmas number 1 Always on My Mind was really never intended as a festive hit.
So in 2009, shortly after their brilliant album Yes, the Christmas EP was an extremely welcome collection of festive tracks, with a couple of updated versions, a couple of cover versions, and a beautiful piece of sleeve artwork.
The new version of It Doesn’t Often Snow at Christmas is great – a very worthwhile update, but it is a little disappointing that the original was never properly released – in 1997, it received so much BBC Radio 1 airplay that it isn’t difficult to imagine it being a significant hit. In 1998, it was still being played widely. In 2000, they performed it live on TFI Friday, on Channel 4 television. The final release came out for the general public in 2009, and unfortunately ended up being widely ignored, because the moment had passed. Which is a great shame, as it’s definitely among Pet Shop Boys‘s best tracks.
Their brilliantly atmospheric cover of Madness‘s My Girl, originally performed in the autumn at a tribute concert for PSB’s friend and long time bodyguard Dainton Connell. As with most of their cover versions, it’s far from being just a pointless rehash of the original, bringing a very different energy to the track. It’s also got some festive chimes, although that’s really the only justification it has to be on this EP. As if it needed any.
The New Version of All Over the World is acceptably similar to the original, just now with slightly snappier beats and a bit more of a pop feel. It’s still fun and uplifting, if ultimately a little pointless and unnecessary in its own way – which is maybe exactly what good pop music should be. On the other hand, the fourth track, an odd medley of Coldplay‘s Viva la Vida and PSB’s own Domino Dancing is a little lacking in context – in fact, this is a studio recording of one of their live tracks from the period, and with that in mind, it’s easy to enjoy the track. Without it, it’s easy to wonder why on earth they bothered.
The final track is the Our House mix of My Girl, essentially an extended version in the 80s tradition which Pet Shop Boys always did so well. Clocking in at a touch under six minutes, it’s easily the best track on the EP, and closes it in fine form.
The CD or download release of Christmas is still widely available.