Music Reviews

Tinsel and Lights – Tracey Thorn


Everything But The Sanity Clause

Tracey Thorn: Tinsel and Lights – Album Review


Tracey Thorn: Tinsel and Lights (Strange Feeling)


Out Now

Christmas. Apparently some people adore it. Most people, I suspect, have a love/hate relationship with it. In truth, Christmas is a fantasy – how often have your holiday seasons been taken in front of a roaring fire, with snow feet deep outside, and smiling children and relatives you never argue with?

It’s also the time of year when every money grubbing X-Factor fuck looks to cash in on the fact that most punters are too pissed to care what music they buy. So what, in Santa’s name, is Tracey Thorn, erstwhile member of that wonderful band Everything But The Girl, doing releasing a Christmas album?

Thankfully, this is not a vanity project full of Christmas standards; indeed, a couple of the tracks don’t even mention Christmas.. In many ways, Tinsel and Lights, isn’t actually about Christmas, more about the darkness of winter and how we create a celebration, with tinsel and lights, in the bleak middle of it. Tinsel and Lights is a metaphor for human hope in the face of that darkness and cold. Thorn selects her songs carefully, and self-pens two (‘Joy’, ‘Tinsel, and Lights’), to create an atmosphere over the whole album An atmosphere of yearning, longing, loneliness, but all set against the hope that makes us human. As she sings on ‘Joy’: “We must be alright if we can make up Christmas night.”

There’s a great version of Jack White’s ‘In the Cold, Cold Night’ and Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’. The latter is sung pitch perfectly by Thorn with a backing track that sounds like a northern colliery band. The one song that seems to be a concession to the Christmas standard is ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’. But even here, with Thorn’s longing voice, it fits perfectly the theme of hope in the darkness. The album ends with Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Sister Winter’ that has chords as brittle as ice. The refrain is ‘My Heart Is returned to Sister Winter’, which resolves itself to the ‘I’ve Returned to wish you a happy Christmas’.

If you want a Christmas album without the schmaltz and the fantasy, then this has everything but the sanity claus. Recommended for the dark, winter nights.


This article first appeared on the Loudser Than War website:


Music Reviews

Touching Closer – Peter Hook and the Light

Peter Hook and the Light (82)

Live at the Kasbah, Coventry 16/11/2012

Support by The Shinies: Manchester band. Very good. Check ‘em out here:

Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures and Closer have been fixtures on my turntable for thirty years, so when I heard that Peter Hook And The Light were kicking off their Unknown Pleasures tour at the Kasbah, Coventry I purchased my tickets well in advance. The band had already played the Still album live and now they were taking Unknown Pleasures on tour. The album is played in order with other Joy Division/Warsaw tracks before and after to pad out the set.

Having grown up with the recordings the first thing that strikes me is the sheer rock energy of the songs; they lend themselves beautifully to a smaller venue like the Kasbah and soon the crowd are boisterously jumping around. After years of sitting in a darkened room, listening to Unknown Pleasures and contemplating the lyrics the songs are suddenly liberated for me. You get a glimpse of what Joy Division must have been like to see live – not a moribund, navel gazing, intellectual experience, but a fucking great rock band with an intelligence far beyond their years.

Hook carries the vocals well and, after only a couple of songs, you stop even thinking of comparing him to Ian Curtis, so taken up with the atmosphere of the show. One of the surprises is the way Hook himself appears. He could have approached this return to such an integral part of his life with reverence, as many Joy Division fans do, but he is relaxed, smiling, joking with the audience. He’s having a good time. At one point he tells a member of the audience to ‘stop holding that New Order shirt up or I’ll come out there and fucking kill you’. The only moment I think I notice a slight poignancy cross Hook’s face is when singing the lyrics, “But I remember when we were young” from ‘Insight’. The audience is made up of all ages. My friend’s 17 year old daughter is there, her t-shirt bearing the classic Unknown Pleasure’s album design, and she loves the gig as much as us older heads. The band are tight. They have two bass players; presumably to give Hook more freedom, but it has the added effect of making the songs heavy.

The last two songs of the night are ‘Transmission’ and ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. Could there be better songs to end any gig? And by this point the audience are in raptures. I use the word rapture carefully. Whilst it was a great rock gig, there was something indefinable, something ‘other’ about it. At times the music was almost transubstantial, hypnotic, elevating, cathartic. Not wishing to sound like a hippy, but it was moving, maaaan! These are great songs for any age and they can infect the spirit in a shamanistic way. Some may criticise Hook for going it alone in re-visiting Joy Division’s work – anyone with that view should go see him live and I defy them not to change their mind.

In a 100 years time rock may well have become a specialist music genre, kept alive by only a small percentage of enthusiasts. If so, the works of Joy Division will be cherished, and recordings of Peter Hook And The Light playing the material will be held in archives just as old folk and blues recordings are now.

They’re on tour now. Go and see them. ‘nuff said.

Set list:

Sound of Music

No Love Lost

Leaders Of Men




Day of the Lords



New Dawn Fades

She’s Lost Control




I Remember Nothing


Heart and Soul


24 Hours




Love Will Tear Us Apart




This review first appeared on Louder Than War 28/11/2012: