I had moment of rare peace and seasonal tranquility last night as I sat, glass of Prosecco in hand, in a room lit only by fairy lights*, with my daughter listening to Low Christmas. I was able to pick up on a bit of a festive buzz.
I know next to nothing about Low, they always seemed to be just the type of low-key, tasteful, melancholy indie droogs that make me want to reach for my Discharge LPs, excellent at what they do I’m sure, but …
Anyway, I bought Christmas because it’s a Christmas album, it is highly rated by the sort of folk who rate such things and I wanted another one to go with The Yobs Christmas Album or even just one I could play in polite company once in a while. You know what? it’s a very classy thing indeed – sumptuous silvered tastefully snowy LP cover, a slightly apologetic message about the commerce involved in banging out a Christmas album and some great often sad music too. Win, win, win.
It all kicks off with ‘Just Like Christmas’ which sounds like a wonky take on Phil Spector played at double time. I love this jaunty track and Mimi Parker’s voice is a wonderful thing as she sings of disappointment and recapturing wonder. People always refer to Low as minimalist but I love the fullness of this track and Parker’s drumming is another thing of joy here, neatly sounding brand-new and classic all at once.
My absolute favourite though is ‘Long Way Around The Sea’, which tips its plaintive hat to all the wonderful melancholy old English carols like ‘The Coventry Carol’**, you can’t beat a bit of feeling at Christmas. This vocal harmonies between Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker are stunningly beautiful and the music is so minimal it is barely there, more of an outline than anything substantial, unlike anything else I’ve heard. It appears to be a telling of the journey of the Magi. I am confused by the lyrics though is the Harod mentioned in the lyrics Herod? or is Harod a Mormon thing?^ an interpretation that bought Herod into the equation would make sense to me (and tie in with ‘The Coventry Carol’ too, rather neatly).
It’s the famous one from Christmas but I’m a lot less keen on their slo-mo version of ‘Little Drummer Boy’, which reminds me a little too much of those dreams where you fall into the road and can’t get up because you suddenly go into slow motion; or is that just me? I do rather like the overtly Christian ‘If You Were Born Today’, with its wonderfully true opening lines:
If you were born today
We’d kill you by age eight
Never get the chance to say
Joy to the world and
Peace on the earth
Forgive them for they know not what they do
There’s a great world-weariness to this song that I respond to.
Low’s version of ‘Blue Christmas’ de-Elvisifies it, leaving it teetering on the edge of hard, jagged tears falling into your mulled wine brilliance. When Mrs 1537 finds out how much I spent on that, ironically titled, Free box set and leaves me this is the track I can see me playing late at night under the fairy lights and sobbing along to … in July. Oh yes! Low also do ‘Silent Night’ which is nice enough but a little pointless, they don’t take it anywhere of their own but, hey, it is Christmas and it is a great song to sing. ‘Taking Down The Tree’ with its litany of minor losses, is another one I love, somehow it captures a certain transience of joy and just keeps on the right side of self-parody:
Another broken reindeer
Another velvet ribbon
The closer ‘One Special Gift’ doesn’t quite do it for me either, it hits all the right grace notes of faith and melancholy but it’s no ‘If You Were Born Today’.
I’ve really grown to love this LP over the last month and a chunk and I fully intend to spin it on Sunday night, that just seems right. As I mentioned this is a very classy album and I feel owning it somehow makes me a better, even classier guy.
Word up and merry thingy, boys and girls.
*but not in a freaking scary Stranger Things type way. Should I stay, or should I go? You have to f-king ask?! go, go, go!!!
**possibly my favourite piece of music ever, I can still remember singing it for the first time aged about 6 or 7. We did a lot of singing in Wales.
^Sparhawk and Parker are both Mormons.