There are people who love the very idea of Christmas and who seem to get very excited just as November turns to December . And then there’s the others for whom the forced jollity doesn’t come *quite* so naturally.
The former have, of course, been well served by the multitude of often banal festive tunes served up over the last few decades. The latter, well, not so much.
Needless to say I fall very much into the second category – I don’t actually dislike Christmas but find the way it seems to be automatically switched on at the start of December in certain quarters a little … irritating. Which largely explains why it took me so long to get round to listening to a review copy of ‘Happy Holidays’, the final record by the Grand Gestures.
Fair to say, and not surprisingly, the Grand Gestures would appear to fall into the same category as myself. Anyone expecting a character transplant for Jan Burnett and co to produce a festive wonderland would be best looking elsewhere. Instead ‘Happy Holidays’ looks at the darker side of Christmas, where people are often lonely, skint and cold. It’s the perfect record for those who dread the festive season.
Musically the Grand Gestures formula remains intact – moody, low key electronica with some startling vocal performances. Andrew Mitchell’s ‘Death of a New Year’ is beautifully sung whilst another stand-out is the duet between Celie Byrne and Calamity Horse on ‘Playing The Games’.
The bleaker side of Christmas is covered on the likes of Ross Thompson’s series of Christmas Day vignettes scattered throughout the record and Graham Anderson’s ‘til It Got Christmas’ (which starts off with duelling dinosaurs!).
But there’s humour present too – not least on Sanjeev Kohli’s revelation of Santa’s dark secret on “I Never Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus’ or on the closing ‘Sergeant Claus’ by John Douglas, a tale of a Christmas night out gone wrong.
So, yep, fair to say that ‘Happy Holidays’ is no party album. But if, like me, you’re looking to put Christmas into perspective, then ‘Happy Holidays’ could be the Yule-tide record you’ve been looking for.
Here’s the video for ‘Playing The Games’:
The final Grand Gestures live performance takes place at King Tut’s in Glasgow on Saturday 21st May 2016. More info here.