Since the 30th October, the sadistic elves who control the Christmas music factory have been hard at work. There should be a rule that until at least two weeks before Christmas, there should be no more than 1 festive song played in the space of an evening. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not the Grinch and love a good festive tune. Think Bublé’s entire Christmas album, Adam Sandler’s ‘Hannukah Song,’ José Feliciano’s ‘Feliz Navidad.’ But the key to enjoyment is restraint!
Enter ‘Baldur’s Gate’ – Shame’s next stop on their pathway to a Christmas album. In their typical bolshy fashion, the band announced their upcoming track by daring to step on the toes of Bublé. However, we’d argue that the band is operating in a different lane to Bublé. Shame do not traverse the path of tacky references to loved ones, being warm by the fire, rhyming ‘sleigh bells ring’ with ‘ding-a-ling-a-ling’ etc. but rather romantically profess:
“If I could rip off all my skin, and parcel it inside a tin. I’d write your name in bile, on the ribbons like decorations.” How sweet.
The track is a stripped back and down tempo addition to Shame’s usual repertoire of angular rhythms and militant shouts. Despite the Sweeney Todd-esque opening line, the scratchiness of lead singer Charlie Steen’s delivery adds a tenderness to the song. ‘Baldur’s Gate’ may be a ‘Christmas classic’ in the words of Steen himself, but it’s what we’d call a ‘festive neutral’ rather than a ‘festive explicit’ like Bublé and the rest.
What are these terms you may ask? The ‘festive explicit’ is a song obviously about the festive period, most likely identified through lyrics. On the other hand, a ‘festive neutral’ is a song that shares instrumentation or lyrics with your typical festive song, but can also be played year-round. Think Joni Mitchell’s ‘River,’ PVA’s ‘Divine Intervention,’ Fat White Family’s ‘Is It Raining in Your Mouth?’ and The Jesus & Mary Chain’s ‘Darklands’ album. ‘Baldur’s Gate’ is a welcome addition to such ranks that may just be strong enough to break our 1-song policy, perhaps restoring a bit of sanity to this festive and fiendish period.