366 Songs 354: Father Christmas

I love the (uncomfortable, unconvincing) attempt that the Kinks made with this late ’70s song to try and be relevant in the era of punk. There’s a real sense of old men wearing the latest fashions and looking ridiculous to this song, which just seems oddly appropriate considering the family feeling that Christmas brings… Not that these other versions sound much better, it has to be said…

366 Songs 231: Shangri-La

That I apparently haven’t written about this song yet seems a massive oversight to me, considering this may be one of my favorite pop songs ever written/performed, mixing a wonderful arrangement – The brass section! The jangly guitars! – some lyrics that speak to the disaffection of a nation bred into apathy (“But he’s too scared to complain/Cause he’s conditioned that way”), and a structure that just builds into the spectacularly amped up, angry section that begins at 2:50 that kicks the whole thing into a higher level. “And all the houses on the street have got a name/Cause all the houses on the street all look the same,” while the music repeats, a commentary on the similarity of suburbia, and the horns drag everything down… And then everything turns into a lazy, sloppy singalong, punctuated by cymbal crashes and we return to where we started, emboldened, tired and underscoring some wonderfully sad idea that you can never really escape where you come from.

That this isn’t a song that everyone knows and adores continually makes me a little sad; this is what pop music can do, if it really tries.