At this time of year, when we’re all having so much fun, it’s easy to forget exactly what we are celebrating. So this year, while you’re enjoying your mince pies and sherry, and watching the little kiddies’ faces light up on Christmas morning, stop for a moment and spare a thought for our Lord Jesus.
No, really. Go on. Because Jesus is cool again, and this is the record to prove it. And no sniggering in the back pews, because [a]Christmas[/a] is not some ironic American indie fellas’ idea of an amusing gimmick. Two of Low are Mormons, for a start. They call this album ‘our Christmas gift to you’. And you know they’re absolutely serious.
Best known for their funereally slow sadcore paeans, imagine our surprise when opening track ‘Just Like Christmas’ sounds like it could be lifted off a Shangri-Las Christmas album circa 1964. It’s practically speed garage pace compared with Low’s normal bpm. Blissfully pure pop, sleigh bells in the background, reindeer rhythms, kettle drums and all. Heavens above!
But fear not, said he, for hark! ‘Long Way Around The Sea’ is slow, portentous, and totally sublime. Based on the story of King Herod chasing the wise men in order to kill the baby Jesus, it’s one of this year’s most beautiful records.
Low‘s interpretations of Crimbo classics are just as breathtaking. ‘Little Drummer Boy’ lends a twee ditty a truly haunting sense of hymnal majesty, an utterly humbling innocence and, oh yes, lock up your sneers, an undeniably holy feeling. ‘Blue Christmas’ takes Elvis Presley‘s weepy ballad and strips it of any lachrymose melodrama, leaving only percussionist Mimi Parker‘s desolately emotive voice and a sparse accompaniment, to make it a desperately melancholy lament. Likewise, the lo-fi, acoustic treatment of ‘Silent Night’ makes it all the more atmospheric.
When you hear people singing these songs with the feelings, emotion and gravitas they had when they were written, they rise again from years and years of hollow, limply dutiful renditions by the Tory Party at prayer, and sound amazingly affecting.
If all Christmas songs were like this, midnight mass would be filled with miserablists praising the Lord and passing the Prozac. But they aren’t, which makes this quite possibly the best Christmas album in the world… ever.