Just Like Christmas


“On our way from Stockholm
Started to snow
And you said it was like Christmas
But you were wrong
It wasn’t like Christmas at all”

From “Just Like Christmas” by Low

I always pity those folks who have to work in shops and be exposed to cheesy, cheery, Christmas music from the middle of October onwards…The decorations go up so early and we are buoyed into a sense of compulsive festive spending at what seems like an ever alarmingly early point in our calendar.

That said, there is something I love in amongst all of that.  Dark mornings and nights, steam exhaling from nostrils, warm drinks, cozy fires and a time to revert to childhood and the anticipation of Christmas.  It is one of the times in the year when lots of folks who never darken church doors find themselves in a church singing songs they have learned as kids when life often seemed less complicated and full of possibilities. 

I’ve come to love re-workings of some of those old Christmas songs.  Belle & Sebastian’s reading of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, Sufjan Stevens’ “O Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing” or most of the “XFM: It’s A Cool, Cool Christmas” album.  No Christmas Day in our home is likely to be complete without the Christmas albums of Johnny Cash and Frank Sinatra getting an airing.

My all-time favourite seasonal album though has to be “Christmas” by Low.  Last night we had the delight of seeing them play over in Glasgow (a treat I have enjoyed more times than I can be sure of).  After a typically sparse and beautifully melodic opening setlist, the minimalism was interrupted by a cluttered stage comprising an ensemble of Low and Ida together with Eric from The Retribution Gospel Choir and Sun Kil Moon and Jean on violin.  They ran through most of the songs from the “Christmas” album and a few other festive favourites.  They threw themselves into it and it was a sight to behold Mimi really hitting those drums and all sorts of percussive instruments in a seasonal ho-down.

It didn’t really feel like Christmas, as I have a mental list of a million things to do between now and then.  Yet, it was a pleasure to behold in the presence of my true love.  It was so nice of a good friend to offer to babysit.  It was a rare treat to munch crepes in the car afterwards as we watched band and fans spill out of the venue.  Yet in the midst of it all, there was a contrast of seasonal silliness and a deeper sincerity.  Alan Sparhawk exited the stage saying “God is a forgiver, God is a forgiver”.


14 Responses to “Just Like Christmas”

  1. 1 brunettekoala November 19, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    I really hope when you talk about your true love you’re talking about your lovely wife and not Low…!


  2. 2 thestatethatiamin November 19, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Yes. A rare treat to get a “date night” seeing a band we both love so much. Thanks again BK!

  3. 3 mike November 19, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    it was an honour & a pleasure to hear Low play those wonderful
    & inspirational Christmas songs at long last. made the return journey from Aberdeen well worth the effort. Alan was really emotional, we were moved they filled the Oran Mor with joy to the world & we chuckled with @ the new single

    nice to see quite a few fellow Aberdonians down for this special night

  4. 4 thestatethatiamin November 19, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Aberdonians? I grew up there too…

  5. 5 brunettekoala November 20, 2008 at 12:34 am

    any time…I got to read 3 Narnia books…(ok I skipped the boring parts)…!

  6. 6 scottgladstone November 20, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    I worked in Sainsbury’s for a year and our remedy to the overly cheery Christmas pap, yes pap, when customers were in store was to play comedy records for the last hour of the shift.
    One night work about ground to a halt thanks to a Bill Hicks record

  7. 7 thestatethatiamin November 20, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    My mate Craig B used to work in HMV in Glasgow. He got banned from playing Red House Painters in the stock room as general lethargy enveloped the staff….

  8. 8 mike November 21, 2008 at 7:37 am

    is that the same or differernt craig b from aerogramme?

  9. 9 thestatethatiamin November 21, 2008 at 11:22 am

    One and the same. The ginger ninja.

  10. 10 brunettekoala November 23, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    I worked in Gap over Christmas one year. It wasn’t so bad in Edinburgh as the store had more than 1 Christmas cd, but the one in Aberdeen was a brand new store and so only had 1 christmas cd – the same cd just played over and over and over…

    drove me crazy. And I’d start singing the next song before it had started.

  11. 11 lynn November 27, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    what B & S recording is O Come O Come Emmanuel on?

    would love to have a listen to that?

    Ihave a recommendation for you – I am particularly fond of Alex Chilton and Teenage Fanclub’s “Jesus Christ is Born Today” (used at one of the watchnight services once in my last church when I was in a band)

  12. 12 thestatethatiamin November 27, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Thanks Lynn,

    The Belle & Sebastian version of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” is on the “X:FM It’s a Cool Cool Christmas” album by various artists. It was recorded back in the day when Isobelle Campbell was still with them and is childlike, delicate and beautiful.

    Where can I find the Teenage Fanclub vesion of “Jesus Christ Is Born Today”? One of my favourite gigs was actually seeing the Fanclub do an in store performance in Virgin in Aberdeen back in 1995 prior to playing in town that evening on the “Grand Prix” tour. Norman arrived in his slippers with a cup of tea and they busked their way through “Mellow Doubt” and a bunch of other songs from the era with witty west coast banter between tracks.

  13. 13 lynn November 27, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    yups, have it here…it was a vinyl B side which I dont have to hand (packed up in our “other” i.e.unsold house) but I do have a copy bought last week from Oxfam book and music store on CD – on the Aint That Enough CD single.

    I looked for it on last.fm and they dont have any TFC ….

    we must exchange TFC and B&S gig stories very soon IRL!

  14. 14 thestatethatiamin November 28, 2008 at 6:12 am

    Indeed. I have seen TFC more times than I’m sure I can accurately recount – always a joy and listening to them can’t help but make me feel happy. I’ve only seen B & S live a handful of times, but again always with a huge smile on my face.

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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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