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gah-cil_900.jpgGentleman Auction House
Christmas in Love
Emergency Umbrella Records

Generally speaking, music and schmaltz- particularly the holiday variety- rarely go together well, or at least in a perfect world they wouldn’t. But for some reason people think they do. Why else would Paul McCartney have recorded “Wonderful Christmastime?” However, that doesn’t mean anyone should not get any points for trying to introduce a little holiday cheer into their repertoire. That includes Gentleman Auction House.

In their day to day incarnation, Gentleman Auction House is an art-punk band, sounding like a mixture of Pavement, The Cars and anything else that is slightly out of the mainstream. But on their new album Christmas in Love they channel those influences to create a warm, feel good record that has all of the requisite clichés we’ve come to expect from Christmas songs, with an alternative twist. In “On the Rooftop”, Eric Enger and Steve Kozel hit the synthesizer, conjuring up images of Rick Ocasek in a reindeer sweater, blurting out classic holiday tunes on cable. By contrast, “Home for the Holidays” finds Enger, Kozel and the gang (there are at least six of them total, including a fellow named- believe it or not- Ryan Adams) tapping into their inner Robert Smith, singing ostensibly about the joys of being with family on Christmas time, only to acknowledge the opposite.

However, the rest of the album is more traditional, featuring covers of Gene Autry’s “Here Comes Santa Claus” as well as a couple of romantic ballads to spare. This is hardly heady stuff, which most people would agree on, yet neither is it nails-on-a-chalkboard bad. Holiday songs aren’t meant to be too deep or thoughtful, and it’s obvious that the band is trying to push the genre without bringing to much rain on peoples’ parades, but Christmas in Love at least tries. And really, that’s all that counts.

While this isn’t a Live Aid cover or an attempt to ruminate on the multiple meanings of Christmas, it demonstrates that while the artists are still committed to quality, they aren’t afraid to ham it up every once and awhile, especially when the ham is festooned with a rock-punk honey glaze. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but at least it’s worth a listen. Once. After that, it tends to engender a case of stabby eye.

–John Winn