Smith & Burrows. It sounds like a shoddy solicitors firm but in fact they’re muscians making a festive record – and you might know them better than you think. Tom Smith, lead singer for The Editors, and Andy Burrows, former Razorlight drummer, have teamed up to create Funny Looking Angels; a Christmas album for the modern day.
It’s half covers and half originals – but even the choice of covers is original. Instead of the usual covers you might find on a certain Mr Beiber’s Christmas album, Smith & Burrows select 80s pop tracks such as Black’s ‘Wonderful Life’ and ‘Only You’ by Yazoo. Neither of them are Christmas songs but get a wintery revival. Where synths once reigned, there is now harmonised backing vocals and open hall piano.
If you do recognise these two young men, you might be tempted to dismiss them. They each have an unappealing side: Tom Smith with his miserable, dark indie delivery while Andy Burrows has his drum-centric solo project. Together though they leave these things behind, keen to strip Christmas bare of the tacky and cheap decorations.
‘This Ain’t New Jersey’ is the stand-out track; twinkling pianos and slow violins paint a dark city filled with snow and headlights. What is key is that it is relatable; here Smith bemoans the old Christmas songs we’ve had to live with for 30 years or more. There is also drinking and arguments with loved ones: “You throw your drink in my face, and that look in my direction, those same old songs, every single year.”
Admittedly there isn’t an overly festive, danceable feel to this collection of songs but they are designed more for Christmas Eve. ‘As the Snowflakes Fall’ conjures images of being warm indoors watching the snow outside and features well-executed falsetto from burrows. If there is one let down on the album, it is ‘When the Thames Froze’ with its clumsy attempt to tap into a collective consciousness using hand-holding lyrics and tacky chanting.
Throw out the charity records and the cringe-worthy attempts to resurrect the ‘classic’ Christmas sounds like jingling bells and kids in choirs – this is a genuine and warming attempt. Smith & Burrows have songs which make sense in the here and now – Christmas in the 21st century.