A Slow Club Christmas is starting to become something of a tradition. Last year, Charles and Rebecca treated us to a rather lovely festive single in the shape of ‘Christmas TV’ and a knees-up at London’s Union Chapel. This year they’re repeating the event at the same venue, but with a Santa’s sack of five additional Christmas delights in their repertoire. Or should that be lumps of coal? As implied by the title, Christmas, Thanks For Nothing sees the band continuing to temper their characteristic humour with heavy doses of heartbreak that some might find a little hard to swallow.
Opening with two Christmas classics served so well by ’60s icon Darlene Love, Charles and Rebecca take turns at the mic. While Charles’s rendition of ‘All Alone On Christmas’ is far from office party material with its melancholy lyric and a delivery to break even the strongest of hearts, Rebecca steps in with an arresting version of ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ just in time to stop anyone sobbing into their figgy pudding. The perennial Phil Spector number is given the full-on Wall of Sound treatment and Rebecca belts out her vocal like she’s just won ‘X Factor’, but just when we might be in some danger of thinking that Christmas is a time to rejoice and be merry, Slow Club show us the error of our ways with two new tunes that could put any optimists among us off the festive season forever.
Downright Yuletide misery reigns over the one-two gut-punch of ‘It’s Christmas & You’re Boring Me’ and the title track. So while Rebecca gets a little catty on the former (“You’ve made me happy but you don’t excite me / I’ll wait till New Year to tell you we’re through” – ouch!), not even the sound of sleigh bells can cheer up Charles as he moans, “Christmas, thanks for nothing / you made a doubter out of me.” An overdriven instrumental version of ‘Silent Night’ later and ‘Christmas TV’ makes a welcome reappearance to prevent us from comfort eating an entire tin of Quality Street or smothering ourselves with our stockings. A year-round highlight of Slow Club’s live shows, it’s a great way to end the EP, balancing the sense of longing with a hopefulness that’s sadly lacking elsewhere on the record.
The fact that Charles and Rebecca only share lead vocal duties on one of the six songs is a real shame; the interplay between them was the magic ingredient that made them such a lively and lovable experience. While their knack for a melody clearly hasn’t diminished, their youthful exuberance seems to have taken a bashing. Perhaps a little too eager to leave the naivety of their early material behind, Slow Club may be in real danger of losing their unique charm.
[Moshi Moshi; December 6, 2009]