Review Summary: Love will tear us apart....DING-DONG-DING-DONG
Look, the thing about Silver & Gold
is that it quite clearly deserves a 4.2 on the ol’ Sputnik Richter-scale. I mean, it is neither definitively a 4, nor a 4.5, and it certainly is not a perfect 5. In fact this is far from what Sufjan Stevens even wants us to do with his music. One of the worst things I can imagine doing for Silver & Gold
is to actually be super-duper serious about it. For God’s sake the last song refrains “I am the Christmas Unicorn.” From the long booklet-essays from Pastor Vito and Sufjan alike, full of apocalyptic imagery and laments of the loss of imagination and tradition, to the amount of craft (and crafts) put into this thing, it would be equally easy to take up two such super-duper serious positions: a) Sufjan Stevens has SAVED CHRISTMAS, or b) What is this hipster/indie/stupid crap? I guess, to be honest, at first I was in the former group (naturally), but I quickly realized that both of these positions miss the point entirely. He wants us to be sad, to smile, to do all sorts of things, but mostly he wants us to enjoy it for what it is.
Sufjan doesn’t save Christmas and I don’t think he even wants to. What is clear from the eccentric nature of this box-set, from the swinging, lilting, beautiful “Barcarola” to the head-scratching, masturbatory “Do You See What I See?”, is that Sufjan is not concerned with making huge statements, he’s creating a world, or reflecting a world, which he has seemingly given-up on--not in the mumbling, shut-in, depressed way, but rather it is in the joyous way of realizing I’m here, and we might as well boogie. Which is exactly why, as has become a trademark of Stevens’ work, the album exists on this plane where introspection meets with group sing-a-longs, depression meets with joyous outbursts, traditional meets with left-field kookiness. M’yes it is quiet the existential malaise of the postmodern, post-human conundrum of post-traditional spheres of anxiety
. No, shut-up. This album is a thing, that Sufjan created, to give to us, for money, and while it is true this is a referential world (“Joy to the World” takes cues from two different Age of Adz
tracks), it is not so much an identity-crisis the way his last proper album was so much as a dumping ground of hey guys wouldn’t this be great?!
That’s why the second disc of five is mostly a bunch of throwaway crap.
I mean all you need to do is take the last two songs of the collection, perhaps also the two best, as a microcosm for this world. Even in the deepest doldrums of thought, where “Justice delivers its kiss,” in the end it doesn’t even matter because “you’re the Christmas Unicorn, too.” So let’s end on “Christmas Unicorn,” which has become my all-time favourite Christmas song. It’s a ridiculous song, but it indicates just exactly what makes Silver & Gold
so great; it is not a song that is empty of meaning, and it is a song that questions the way the world has commodified traditions in very strange ways resulting in some very real anxiety, but in the end the idea just seemed to be a shrug of the shoulders and lift-off! The end of the “Christmas Unicorn” makes Joy Division sound like Christmas. That’s all you need to know. Just enjoy it, because you know what? It’s all right, I love you.