'Tis the season to make lists. Here's one – every review of Christmas records should contain references to Christmas institutions, be it turkey, Santa, grandma falling asleep, the Queen's Speech, Top of the Pops, whatever. Here's another – Christmas music that has to be mentioned in reviews of other Christmas music – 'Fairytale Of New York', 'Stop The Cavalry', Phil Spector's Christmas album, and from now on, Bob Dylan's seasonal cream crackers effort.
And now Slow Club are planting their flag into the snow covered peaks of Christmas music. The Christmas, Thanks for Nothing EP starts with two Darlene Love covers, Charles and Rebecca each tackling their track (seemingly) individually. He does a tender, horribly sad take on 'All Alone On Christmas', a mournful piano accompanying, stripping the song down to the most minimal accompaniment possible. Home Alone 2 would be a lot less uplifting had this version been used. Echoing backing vocals add to the sense of isolation, buried deep down in the mix. Her pretty faithful take on 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)' makes an immediate contrast, its thick Spectorish haze of instruments all drowned out by a beautiful chanteuse's croon.
Just like there's always one type of Quality Street that the whole family hates, every Christmas record has to have a cover of a traditional carol. Slow Club's version of 'Silent Night’ is different though, dispensing with words, preferring instead a distorted organ, deconstructing the song with reverberating noise a la Hendrix's 'Star Spangled Banner', although admittedly not quite as epoch defining.
Yeah, So was one of the better hidden gems of the year, and the self penned tracks here could easily slot straight back into that record. 'Christmas TV' has the beautiful harmonising that makes their live shows so pindrop quiet, two lovers crooning to each other to “Just come on home”. 'Christmas Thanks For Nothing' (sample lyric - “You've made a doubter out of me”) is more festive, although it does a strange segue halfway through into what seems a completely different song. There are no Roy Wood style “I wish it could be Christmas everyday” moments on this EP. This is the darker side of the Christmas we pretend to forget. The isolation. The heartbreak.
So, this EP is perfect for retreating to your room, alone, to sitting in the dark watching snow flurries melt on your window, while downstairs grandma is falling asleep during the Queen's Speech, before Top of the Pops plays 'Fairytale of New York' and everyone recovers from the overcooked turkey and too much brandy so no one wants to play Monopoly this year because it takes four hours and no one ever wins and are they showing the Great Escape this year oh good I like that one they all die you know. Christmas music is the only type of music that is restricted to one month of the year, but Slow Club are mounting a strong claim to extend its boundaries year round.
8James Lawrenson's Score