New Christmas songs that aren’t cutesy and irritating – and aren’t remakes of the old good chorals – are hard to come by. And until now, there’s probably never been a seasonal Christmas song that could be added to a non-seasonal playlist. Enter the song In Excelsis Deo by the Glasgow-based band There Will Be Fireworks.
What’s so brilliant about this song is the way it actually captures the mood we get when we go home for Christmas. That special mood where the world has kind of stopped and you’re taken back in time to when you were a kid, but you aren’t really a kid, but it just feels good, you know? Just the lyrics “I still can’t sleep on Christmas Eve,” tied in with the sweet strumming of a soft guitar – with a squeak on the non-coated strings – as if the song is being performed in another room in a house packed with people, but just for you – by guitarist Nicky McManus, while he sings the higher notes of his full-range, pitch perfect voice.
And he’s singing this song for someone. Someone with whom he’s meeting up again, perhaps… or someone he loves always, but she’s being reintroduced to the childlike joy of Christmas, yet not feeling very Christmasy. “This years been black and blue.”
But there’s hope, he says. “But we’re alright, and this Christmas could be white for me and you.”
You can almost visualize the scene where he takes her hands to begin dancing outside, “And we’ll never miss a beat, scarlet-faced from whiskey neat in the cold, singing, dancing in the dark….”
There are so many emotions in this song, as there are with love, with Christmas, with family – and no words can ever truly match the emotions felt, which is exactly what is sung here….”I hope these words will do.” And then he says to her that she’s not the only one who’s been going through a hard time. “I’ve had my doubts but not about you.”
And then this line? This is such a pure, captured image of us going home for Christmas and breaking away from the family, the way we used to do when we were young… only now, we’re older and we’ve been hit by life… and it is what it is. “I’m drunk and hearing voices in car parks.” We used to get drunk in car parks by sneaking out and hoping not to get caught. Now we just do it and that reminds us of those feelings, but now we know it’s okay.
And no matter how hard things have been, ” I’ve got love in me, I swear, I hope you know….”
Then the idea of mortality, which we all revisit when we go back home. “If I should fall from grace, if I should leave this dear, green place, and if Christmas fades without a trace, I still want you around.”
And even though going back home is hard, it’s still home. “There’s magic in this old, grey town.”
And now that we’re older, we don’t have to be so careful with who we used to feel we should be when we were growing up. Now we are who we are. No more reasons to be embarrassed or insecure. “You should share in the refrain, if you think you know the songs. Who cares if all the words are wrong.”
In fact, nothing really matters as long as there is love. Christmas will never be what we perceived it to be as a child. The best way to spend the time is to simply enjoy being with the person or people we love. “Who cares if it barely ever snows.”
And all this talk of Christmas? Why, then, will this song work in any playlist? Because of the message, the sound and the crescendo of orchestral instruments building up at the end that somehow match that welling up feeling we have inside when we actually do feel that love in our hearts.
Corny, but damned true. And it works.
The Complete Lyrics for In Excelsis Deo by There Will Be Fireworks
Well I can't wait for Christmas, been buckle-knee'd and listless, and you say that you've been wishing weeks away. They hung the lights out in the street, twisted round the boughs of trees. The choir sung its holiest refrains.
Like Gloria..hosannah in the highest... Heaven knows, this year's been black and blue.
But we're alright, and this Christmas could be white for me and you.
I still can't sleep on Christmas Eve.
And we'll never miss a beat, scarlet-faced from whiskey neat in the cold, singing, dancing in the dark. Oh I hope these words will do, I've had my doubts but not about you. I'm drunk and hearing voices in car parks. On this year... oh I've got love in me, I swear, I hope you know....
In Excelsis Deo.
If I should fall from grace, if I should leave this dear, green place, and if Christmas fades without a trace, I still want you around. There's magic in this old, grey town, you know.
You should share in the refrain, if you think you know the songs. Who cares if all the words are wrong. Who cares if it barely ever snows.
But still the choir smiles, the carol of the bells echo.