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A John Waters Christmas, SILVA SCREEN
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The Independent Culture

A John Waters Christmas: it sounds straightforward enough, but has an album title ever more threateningly invoked the principle of caveat emptor? Christmas is a season ripe with opportunities for the dedicated kitsch-hound, and Waters, a film director whose pop sensibilities are finely attuned to the more exquisitely appalling extremes of dubious taste, has not let us down here. For those who like their festive celebrations with an extra helping of cheese, he's come up with some fully-matured Stilton stinkers.

For starters, there's the tremulous warble of Tiny Tim, a voice that could curdle cream, bringing a queasy air of sinister innocence to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", a performance creepily akin to serial-killer and children's entertainer John Wayne Gacy in full clown make-up. The unalloyed horror of those children's talent contests of which American moms appear so fond is laid out in all its ghastly, sequinned tawdriness in the contributions from Rita Faye Wilson and Little Cindy, especially the latter's "Happy Birthday Jesus (A Child's Prayer)" - a title that is its own Parental Advisory warning.

Even more jaw-droppingly tasteless is the "Little Mary Christmas" narrated by Roger Christian (presumably the same DJ who wrote hot-rod songs with Brian Wilson in the 1960s), an edifying story of a disabled orphan whose only Christmas wish is for a new mommy and daddy. I don't think a lyric has ever prompted such a confusing response in me - part nausea, part hilarity and yes, part admiration - as in the line, "and with her crutches, she stood in that adoption line". Only if that adoption line were the victim of a drink-drive hit-and-run could it be improved upon.

It's not all as emetic as that. Waters does know his pop - particularly his late 1950s/early 1960s R&B - and has rooted out a couple of seasonal doowop delicacies in Stormy Weather's "Christmas Time Is Coming (A Street Carol)" and the eponymous opener from Fat Daddy, in which we learn "I'm Fat Daddy/ Santa Claus with soul". There's a slice of classic Spectoresque pre-Beatles pop from Big Dee Irwin & Little Eva, whose "I Wish You a Merry Christmas" follows the bantering formula of their "Swingin' On a Star".

Elsewhere, The Coctails' "First Snowfall" is a creepy theremin instrumental, and Rudolph & Gang's "Here Comes Fatty Claus" is a sort of redneck-humour attack on yuletide expense. AKIM & The Teddy Vann Production Company's "Santa Claus Is a Black Man" offers a black variant on the "I saw mommy kissing Santa" theme. Not to be taken on a full stomach.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Little Mary Christmas", "Christmas Time Is Coming (A Street Carol)", "I Wish You a Merry Christmas"

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