I’ve always found it odd that Christmas cards are normally adorned with pretty pictures of snow-covered trees and houses. In truth, you are much more likely to be buried under a deluge of Greatest Hits compilations at this time of year than you are to see snow. New records are as rare as happy story lines in Eastenders – it’s Greatest Hits after Greatest Hits, a frantic attempt by record companies to fleece punters of their cash for records they already own.
So here is Polydor’s latest attempt to wring every pound they can out of the Bee Gees’ legacy. This follows on from last year’s Number Ones and 2001’s Greatest Hits. Just how many Bee Gees compilations does one household need?
Love Songs does exactly what it says on the cover with 18 examples of the Isle of Man boys in their slushy, swooning pomp. No foot stomping, flare wearing disco here as those wonderful funky baselines and disco ball beats are entirely absent. The brothers trademark high pitched vocal harmonies and way with hook heavy melodies are present and correct.
For all their undeniable hummability, the songs are hamstrung by the lyrics. Now I am aware that lyrics don’t have to be poetry and that something in the way that a tune and a rhyme hang together can transcend the limitations of both. Kate Bush‘s recent ode to domestic bliss Mrs Bartolozzi manages this trick with aplomb. Unfortunately there is little here but recycled clich� and sentiments that wouldn’t look out of place in a cheap greetings card.
It’s unfair to say that it’s all trite – the opening To Love Somebody retains a gritty almost Northern Soul texture and swathes of Walker Brothers dynamics. Christ, it even survived a mauling by Lulu. The rest of the material though is lachrymose and cloying. Too Much Heaven sounds like someone has caught their knackers in a vice, so high and comical are the vocals. Secret Love is faux Motown, the sound of someone dry humping Diana Ross‘ Chain Reaction.
How Deep Is Your Love is built around a chintzy xylophone riff and it’s worse then the Take That version. Wedding Day is almost beyond belief – imagine Chris De Burgh‘s banal and cheesy the Lady in Red bolted onto a lumpen karaoke backing that attempts to ape Bruce Springsteen‘s Streets Of Philadelphia. The attempt to strip the song back to its core only exposes the fatal flaws in the lyrics.
I admit that it may just be me but I can’t really understand how these ‘love’ songs could ever worm their way into your heart. They lack the desperation of love turned sour, the aural stalking of Elvis Costello‘s I Want You, love as rapture and bliss, (Ride‘s Drive Blind or Lamb‘s Gorecki), or love as salvation, (Nick Cave‘s Are You The One That I’ve Been Waiting For or Leonard Cohen‘s Hallelujah).
Love burns, hurts, twists and soars. These songs just amble along in a Disney utopia. They seem to paint love as a series of Mills and Boon plots and fairy tale endings. The result is that they feel as real as Elton John‘s hair and leave you wishing for some gristle and some pain to balance out these banal confections.