Christmas on the cusp of sadness and melody

ANDY GILL ON ALBUMS; Various Artists Just Say Noel Geffen GED 25107

Of the mercifully few Christmas cash-ins released this year, this light-hearted compilation from the slacker generation is the most agreeable - and with proceeds partly donated to the human-rights charity Witness to provide camcorders for activists, at least you know the money won't be going to Michael Bolton's hairdresser.

Tacking between wacky and sincere, the album displays an engaging ambivalence towards the festive season. At one extreme, the late Ted Hawkins' version of "Amazing Grace" is as gently emotive as any carol; at the other, Sonic Youth's version of Martin Mull's comedy anti-heroin anthem "Santa Doesn't Cop Out On Dope" is as abrasive as possible.

In between, Elastica offer a cool, angular slant on "Gloria" and both The Posies' and Remy Zero's different takes on "Christmas" would be perfect for those who want a lonely indie Christmas. For serious melancholics, though, "Christmastime" by Aimee Mann and Michael Penn perches perfectly on the cusp of sadness and melody. More amusing by half is Beck's "The Little Drum Machine Boy" - "We shut it down harmoniously/ Rockin' softly/ 808 beat". The only other rap offering, The Roots' "Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa", is a downbeat gangsta parody in which Millie exacts revenge for sexual abuse.

The biggest missed opportunity is by Southern Culture On The Skids, who try too hard to jollify "Merry Christmas Baby", the classic Charles Brown version of which is the finest Christmas song of all. Here, the group even manages to leave off the punchline "Well, I haven't had a drink this morning/ But I'm all lit up like a Christmas tree" - surely the finest of seasonal sentiments, and breathalyser-friendly, too.


The Preacher's Wife

Arista 07822-18951-2

Even die-hard Whitney fanatics might baulk at this gospel-heavy soundtrack to the film. After The Bodyguard, it'll sell by the truckload, but it won't be played as often, stuffed as it is with over-arranged testaments of faith filled with Whitney's endless vocal gymnastics.

There is no entry-point left for the listener, Whitney having filled any spare moments with unnecessary elision, while the effect of choir and orchestra is to crowd out any authentic emotion. The Annie Lennox- penned stomper "Step By Step" is an obvious hit, but the impression is of indulgence in the sin of pride.


Family Scriptures

Epic/Relativity REL 486741 2

A strong late contender for single of the year lurks here; if it was available as a single, that is - the Poetic Hustlaz' "Searchin' 4 Peace" is a swaying anthem with softly insistent harmonies and cascading rap in the Bone, Thugs & Harmony tradition, except that the Hustlaz gaze at the heavens from their gutter rather than celebrate the sewer. Their sincerity packs more true gospel spirit into a song than Whitney manages in an album.

The diversity of the Cleveland scene covered by the album sets it aside from the dreary duopoly of the bi-coastal rap wars. This is one of the three or four best rap albums of the year.


We Are Puppets

Trade 2/Island TRDCD

Working in the Supergrass/ Space vein, Tiger are quirkily melodic and engagingly primitive; at times, you'd swear they were from Wales, not Buckinghamshire. Like all Britpoppers, they lift liberally from the past - in their case, the buzzsaw grind of the Velvet Underground.

"Shamed All Over" is what "Lady Godiva's Operation" might sound like narrated by Ray Davies with hiccups. Dan Laidler's idiosyncratic vocal style, the band's unique selling point, sometimes seems built entirely from expostulations, and, on "Cateader Reddle", expressions even less reliant on English. Perhaps they are Welsh, after all.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn