There’s without a doubt something to admire about releasing a Christmas album composed of fifteen semi-original tracks. Unfortunately for the sad sack who finds himself taking “If on a Winter’s Night…” home this season, Christmas can only be ruined by such an endeavor. I say this not in jest and must repeat myself only for the well being of anybody reading this; purchasing this album WILL ruin Christmas.
The album opens with a haunting cover of the folk carol classic, “Gabriel’s Message.” The pairing of dark ominous synthesizers beside Sting’s dispirited vocals makes an unwelcome allusion to Italian horror film soundtracks from the 70’s, which is exactly what you’ll desire while noshing on your figgy pudding. As the album progresses, Sting finds increasingly more painful ways to drag you through his forest of physical suffering. Songs such as “The Hounds of Winter” offer a string of exceptionally cliché similes to detail the narrator’s lost love and loosely link it to the holiday season:
I walk through the day
My coat around my ears
I look for my companion
I have to dry my tears
It seems that she's gone
Leaving me too soon
I'm as dark as December
I'm as cold as the Man in the Moon.
As divine as the concept of an alternative Christmas album replacing joy with pain sounds in theory, Sting is unable to even keep his audience awake here let along engage them. It’d be nice to see a transition on par with Bob Clark’s BLACK CHRISTMAS and A CHRISTMAS STORY but instead we are given a lazy lump of Sting coal in our stockings this year. While bands such as The Cure or The Smiths might have actually tried to develop an ironically despondent tone with a dash of gloomy holiday cheer and in the least a series of indicative prose, Sting would prefer to sit in his 600-acre castle swabbing his flaccid pecker across an 8-track for fifty minutes.
Regardless of if you’re Catholic, Jewish, or Kwanzaakan, if you want something actually worth your time this season, pick up a copy of “A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector” because when he’s not beating the shit out of Lana Clarkson he truly does care about you.