Review Summary: If you didn’t like their album - stay away. If twenty minutes of festive misery appeals to you however, this will suit your tastes perfectly.
Upon signing a contract for his band with Columbia records, Glasvegas singer James Allan specifically made clear his desire to release a Christmas album. This fact alone means little, but when you consider that it has surfaced a mere three months since the release of the bands excellent self-titled debut, you begin to get an idea of the ambition of its makers.
Those who did not enjoy their debut would be well advised to stay away from A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss)
, as their strengths and weaknesses are essentially the same, but for anyone else this festive treat is certainly worth investigation. Admittedly, it is unlikely to go down as a Christmas classic, as it isn’t even a full length, officially being labeled as a six track mini album, available as a bonus disc on a special edition of their debut or as a digital download. What music there is though is very solid, living up to the high expectations.
As you would expect with only three months since their releases, the general sound of A Snowflake Fell…
is very similar to that of their debut. The only real difference is the addition of more festive sounds, with bells, flutes and choirs occasionally appearing amongst the mix. Their signature sound tends to be shimmering guitars and big drums over a huge Phil Spector-like wall of sound that gives their songs a kind of atmosphere. The aspect of their music that has split the opinions of fans and critics the most however is James Allan’s vocals. He delivers them in an incredibly thick Scottish accent, often making his words unintelligible. Although this can at times sound truly awful, this alternative singing style actually works well with the music, as it can add to the atmosphere built by the instruments. Unfortunately, these vocals are often so extreme that some simply cannot bring themselves to like this admittedly challenging sound.
Unsurprisingly, this sound does not exactly make for a cheery Christmas album. This is immediately apparent on opener Careful What You Wish For
, a mournful mix of shimmering guitars and a church choir that gives the song a stone cold feel. At little over a minute in duration, this serves little purpose other than as an intro, but in terms of building up the negative, wintry atmosphere is a very effective opener. The slower songs such as Cruel Moon
and the title track have a similar effect, as does the cover of Silent Night
, which never strays too far from the original, and suits the album perfectly as a result.
Unfortunately, none of the songs here quite reach the level of the likes of Geraldine
or Daddy’s Gone
, the bands two most successful singles, both genuine anthems. In fact, there are no songs that stand out as obvious singles. Please Come Back Home
, the song that was ultimately chosen is probably a good choice, being one of the strongest and most accessible on offer. It is, therefore probably the closest they come to matching those great moments. The other song that challenges Please Come Back Home
as the highlight is the rather less radio friendly *** You, It’s Over
, a bleak tale of Christmas break-up that is equally beautiful as it is depressing.
As with their debut however, Glasvegas’ strengths can sometimes backfire and become their weaknesses. Although the songs here do have a Christmassy twist, their general sound is very similar to that of their debut. This may simply be because the band has chosen to stick to the same songwriting formula, but it may also prove to be a limitation of this sound. As mentioned earlier, many believe the vocals to be poor, and some may find the atmosphere and the nature of the songs simply too dark to make a good Christmas album. One downside that I would pick out is that to buy this in physical form, fans have to re-purchase the first album, not a particularly generous way to sell only six new songs. Many of these “weaknesses” do, however depend on your perception of the band, and what you think a Christmas album should be.
2008 has been a very successful year for Glasvegas. Their debut album has sold well, receiving lots of critical acclaim, and they are making positive strides, now headlining and selling out relatively large venues. A Snowflake Fell…
is an excellent way to round off their breakthrough year, and promises a lot for their future. Yes, they may turn out to be one trick ponies, but for now at least this one trick is proving very enjoyable.
Fuck You, It's Over
Please Come Back Home