The Romantidote’s Christmas single, “(Have Yourself) A Very Maudlin Christmas!” is not only a hilariously bleak anti-festive hit – but also a rich soup of linguistic leftovers.
With his first ever release, Calum Bolland – “the Romantidote” – has joined an illustrious list of names that includes Jim Morrissey, St Vincent and the Velvet Underground. What holds them together? The sheer baubles to use the word ‘maudlin’ in a pop record.
This rare gem of a word carries a murky sack of connotations that includes self-pity, grandiosity and even – according to some accounts – alcohol. If ‘maudlin’ was a noun, it’d be a sort of righteous hangover, which we all recognise from this time of year.
If ‘maudlin’ was a noun, it’d be a sort of righteous hangover
The second of maudlin’s virtues is that in pronunciation, it suits Bolland’s Edinburgensian brogue quite irresistibly. Indeed, his gentle narration would David Attenborough-like effect were it not for the regrettable relatability of scenes he evokes and, of course, the raucous refrain. You could even say there was something anthropological in Bolland’s observations – and something of the primate in those he observes.
But enough joking around, because Christmas is a serious business. We are all maudlin souls, and tradition dictates that we must all be maudlin together once a year. The Romantidote has the world-weariness and gentle irony of a vicar on Christmas Eve, who knows full well that three quarters of the maudlin faces before him are only clocking in for credits at the Pearly Gates.
The way that he leaps between the mundane, the holy and the absurd is immensely artful. Bolland has whipped up a perfect brew of hilarious exasperation, without forgetting an aftertaste of seasonal joy.
Honestly, I don’t know how this song came into being. But I do have a suggestion: a shrouded stranger in a ghastly Irish pub challenged him to write a festive hit that included the words ‘Mussolini’, ‘maudlin’ and ‘microwave’ – then promptly vanished. I have no doubts: that was a benevolent Christmas ghost, and the Romantidote is the relatable Scrooge we’ve all been waiting for.
The Romantidote is hosting a Very Maudlin Christmas show at Berta Berlin on the 6th December.
Student small fry, country boy in the big city, with inky fingers and a travel guitar.