Christmas on the cusp of sadness and melody
ANDY GILL ON ALBUMS; Various Artists Just Say Noel Geffen GED 25107
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
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.
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.
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 2 Watch a man race the Circle line - and win
- 3 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 4 Grandmas keep accidentally tagging themselves as Grandmaster Flash on Facebook
- 5 Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'
Star Trek 3 to begin shooting within six months
Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
The Walking Dead season 5 air date, trailer and season 4 recap
Robin Thicke’s hit 'Blurred Lines' lands him in court, and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly