Christmas Album: Frank Black <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Cheeky boy: Frank's playing a sneaky one here, using the seasonal title (with that extra "s" adding a whimsical goth overtone) to mask what is actually mostly a live album - and an unplugged live album at that. It's a bit of a lose/lose situation: if you're expecting a proper Christmas album, you'll be disappointed; and if you're expecting suitably charged, manic versions of Pixies tracks like "Wave of Mutilation" and "Where Is My Mind?", you'll be disappointed there too, as these arrangements are crying out for a few hundred watts of rock power, rather than the scrubbed acoustic guitars featured here. The shortcomings are thrown into sharper relief by the handful of new songs recorded in hotel rooms while on tour, where the merest tint of overdubbed violin, organ, second guitar or synth adds entire new worlds of harmony and counterpoint to tracks such as "She's My Way", the sardonic "(Do What You Want) Gyaneshwar" and especially "Radio Lizards", a gorgeous a cappella piece on which Black's lead vocal is swaddled in layers of warm, wordless Wilsonian harmonies sung by him and Mark Mulcahy.

DOWNLOAD THIS: 'Radio Lizards', 'She's My Way', '(Do What You Want) Gyaneshwar'