Mew – She Came Home For Christmas
A lot of the songs I write about here come from pop stars that I could be said to be ‘in a relationship’ with – one sided, but relationships nonetheless. By way of example, I’m pretty sure that over the decades I’ve spent more on Madonna than any other person in my life – easily thousands – and the only thing I’ve ever asked from her in return is gold standard tunes, although these days I’d quite like her to quit Instagram too. As we all know, relationships can get quite complicated over time, so occasionally a one night stand is just the thing – and this was what happened when I encountered the Danish alternative band (it says here) Mew.
My wild affair with Mew began and ended with one song. I never felt the urge to find out anything more about them, listen to any of their other records or latterly, stalk them on social media. I’m quite sure I’m doing them a gigantic disservice, but I kind of didn’t want that one perfect moment we shared to be spoiled.
I remember it clearly. It’s Christmas 2002, and once again I’m manning the singles counter at the Virgin Megastore. We still had the in-store radio network at this point, so we were at the mercy of a small band of playlisters, who were themselves no doubt slaves to the most persistent label pluggers. Sony were clearly at the top of their game that year, because She Came Home For Christmas got played an awful lot, and I loved it immediately and completely.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the song fades in on a gorgeous rush of twinkling chimes – and that’s obviously enough to get my attention, especially in December. This was the point at which I entered a fugue state and stopped yelling “who’s first?” at the queue. From there I was seduced by a serene piano line, bursts of lovely warm guitar, and an impish, winsome vocal (sort of how you wish Mark Owen would sound if he really tried) from *checks Wikipedia* Jonas Bjerre. But then the chorus explodes in a sort of scuzzy and mildly alarming burst of denials – “It’s not me! / It can’t be! / It’s not you! / I can’t do what I do if it’s you! / This is not happening”. Something’s going to get decked, and it’s not the halls.
Around about now you might be thinking to yourself ‘well, this isn’t very Christmassy is it?’ and of course you’d be quite right. I seem to be disproportionately fond of completely non-festive festive songs with a traumatic edge to them – but somehow I find them to be really rather uplifting. Maybe it’s the pop equivalent of telling a ghost story at Christmas to make you feel snug and secure.
Another reason I love this song so much is that in my head I’ve turned it into a bit of a companion piece to Erasure’s equally upsetting yuletide treat She Won’t Be Home (as found on the Crackers International EP and easily in my top ten of all time Christmas songs).
I’ve decided both songs are talking about the same girl, and Mew’s sees her finally showing up at the door. The lyrics don’t exactly suggest it’s going to be a joyful reunion (“Don’t touch her there / He watched her / She knew his look from behind / When she came home for Christmas”), but to be honest I like to skate past that bit – if you can’t paper over the cracks of family tension at Christmas, when can you do it?
Entered chart: 28/12/2002 (though the song itself dates from 1997)
Chart peak: 55 (on re-release in 2003, originally 76)
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Well, it’s going to take more than adding a few jingle bells (*cough* Little Mix) to make this one a cheery delight, so let’s give it to Miley Cyrus and see just how dark she can make it.