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.

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
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.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power