Glasvegas - A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss) Review

As music fans drag their proverbial feet during the dregs of holiday-timed release morass, it’s fitting that they should consider that old faithful standby: the Christmas album. Not the bite-sized gift between LPs for faithful fans that some bands are generous enough to hand out, but those usually disposable batch of carol standards crooned by artists both diva and dust. The ones that are spinned repeatedly while you sip on eggnog and make small talk with people you haven’t seen in a year’s time. Somehow both priceless and worthless, they’re never played outside of December, but only Christmas music overkill will have you reaching for a hammer to smash them to bits. Which brings us to Glasvegas, which has the temerity to give fans something halfway in between: it’s not an album full of carols nor is it a single/B-side series for the devoted. It’s five originals and a version of “Silent Night.” Everything’s wintry and sparkling but there’s far more gloom than cheer in this chestnut. I guess it’s a holiday gift for the desolate…or something like that.

We shouldn’t really be surprised that a band that adores implementing chiming bells would see fit to releasing a Christmas album—an obsession with Phil Spector’s Christmas compilation bore the fruit of this bonus release. This is, after all, a band that takes the Walkmen sonic ideology and pushes it even further. But with the exception of their “Silent Night” (pedantically crediting it with the subtitle, “Noapte de Vis”), there’s no overt Christmas expression on here. Yes, their use of choral accompaniment on “Careful What You Wish For” sounds ridiculous if not for the frosty furrow, but keep in mind that the song that follows is called “Fuck You, It’s Over.” The holiday breakup tale times that one appropriately, but the glow of a Christmas tree probably shouldn’t be accompanied by the sound of the usually-dulcet James Allan filling his throat with the venom to spout that kiss off.

So “Silent Night” becomes the extraneous eccentricity. Their sole inspiration in tinkering with the familiar standby is to coat the arrangement in a light veneer of reverb (far less opaque than their usual output). Otherwise, it’s actually disappointingly straightforward—and out of place, as a result. Elsewhere, Glasvegas is economically running through their routine. “Fuck You” and the muddled homeless-on-Xmas ballad, “Cruel Moon,” are close cousins to songs from Glasvegas. The emotive single, “Please Come Back Home,” is punchier and poppier, and as 80s as leg warmers and mullets. Minor surprises: Rab Allan takes his Kevin Shields shtick and spikes it with a healthy dose of Edge and the title track has a less cluttered arrangement and finds the vocals dusted with a faint Spanish tongue-roll. But mostly it’s just a huge, snowy pile of reverb overlaid with cascading chimes so relentless that the Crystals might raise a collective eyebrow.

You can’t really fault them for self-important affectation; the album was mostly recorded in an old cathedral in Transylvanina—not on mere whim. If they want to be significant, blessed are we so long as they avoid the widescreen choruses of arena anthems. Let their sentimental output be filtered through gauze and then dashed with glitter. A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss) is precisely as ostentatious as one would expect from that title, but it’s a mini-LP packaged with their debut full-length. So it’s for fans only. And as someone who found that debut to be impressionable, though not particularly laudatory, I gets what I expects. What should anyone anticipate from a “Christmas album” performed by a pack of dejected Scots? Just be prepared to get buried in melodious fuzz—just the time of year to have your snow shovel ready.

"A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss)" is on sale December 1, 2008 from Columbia.

Matt Medlock


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