Reviewed by Johan Palme on 18th December, 2022
Every Christmas album is, in a way, a concept album.
But, conversely, we rarely see any of them that venture far beyond the connotations offered by Christmas itself. In exceptionally high-effort cases, there may be a certain mood or a theme derived from a particular cultural context or a sociocultural setting, but multiple threads of complex, literary ideas, interwoven between the songs? In that regard, Fruitcake by Eraserheads must be unique in its kind.
It’s an all-original Christmas record full of juxtapositions and connections, witty and erudite, that takes on the holiday head-on. Were it not for the love and youthful silliness that shines through, it could almost be seen as an anti-Christmas record: It strains and pushes against the gatekeepers and exploiters of the holiday, its one-track nostalgia and artificial saccharine glitz, full of margarine and styrofoam snow. Of course, this resistance exists as the theme of individual tracks, but on another level it is also what the album as a whole performatively accomplishes, creating catchy, memorable new tracks that stand up perfectly against the old. And it is so rich, so full of ideas, that even after a dozen listens you find something new. For instance, who is the mysterious “she” that is mentioned, almost off-hand, in half a dozen songs?
None of this would work, of course, if the music wasn’t up to scratch. But what we have here is sumptuous, well-recorded indie rock of the highest calibre, mixing in everything from 1960s psychedelica to free jazz, always with new instruments and new riffs and new approaches, constantly surprising and innovating. The different Eraserheads members’ disparate sensibilities are allowed to flourish, and the result perfectly complements the breadth of literary tropes. The ambition both lyrically and musically is breathtaking, but it is even more astounding to see it fulfilled.