Christmas With The Puppini SistersMusically, Christmas is horrible. Each year a massive corporate free-for-all where whatever hermaphrodite boy band/pop act is currently in vogue infects the airwaves with whatever shit excuse for a song they pull out their arses. And just when you think non-industry types have fought a successful campaign against Santa, as with Rage Against The Machine last year, it turns out we’re being scammed. Not that anyone really cares, but each year I do hope that someone, anyone will release something that you’d actually like to find in your stocking. Only a few decent ones spring to mind: ‘Fairytale of New York’ is probably the best duet of all time (I can happily play this anytime of year); ‘Christmas’ by Low is miraculous, somehow managing to sound hymnal, melancholic and magisterial all at once; and ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham…sorry, but you know it’s good really.

It would be totally unfair to accuse The Puppini Sisters of cashing in because their sound, a quirky mix of ‘40s style close harmony and jazz, perfectly lends itself to the Christmas vibe. Close your eyes, and you could be back 65 years watching snow fall on New York – that is if this was not a covers album, and the songs were not more modern in origin. The problem is that the songs are covers, covers of dull songs about snow, Santa, presents, etcetera, etcetera – all nice stuff in real life, but too cloyingly sweet for music. Music is best when it has a sour edge.

‘Step Into Christmas’ is a gratingly chirpy opener, which makes me wish Christmas was more like the one in Futurama, where a robotic Santa goes round gunning down everyone he thinks is naughty: everyone! At least then Christmas tunes wouldn’t be like ‘Santa Baby’ and ‘Here Comes Sanata Claus’. Well they would, but they’d be more like this:

“Let my happy smile warm your hearts. There’s a toy lodged in my brain”

The swing version of ‘Last Christmas’ doesn’t work at all. It’s slow and boring, but at least it’s not annoying. ‘Let It Snow’ makes me wish there was a toy lodged in my brain. ‘White Christmas’ is a vastly superior version of the original, nauseating version sung by Bing Crosby. ‘All I Want For Christmas’ is really good until 45 seconds in when it goes Big Band, and it leaves you wishing for the brilliant Mariah Carey original. All want for Christmas is not to hear this song ever again…awful. And on it goes.

The Puppini Sisters give an impressive performance, but it’s like any covers album: hit and miss. Except that, nearly all the originals are blood-curdlingly terrible. CWTPS proves that a Christmas album does not have to be corporate to be painfully bad, it just has to be Christmasy. Bah! Humbug! Happy Christmas everyone!

Release Date 15/11/2010 (Verve)

Chris Gilliver

I started out writing for the Manchester Evening News as a freelance journalist back in 2008. The idea that I would be given free access to music and gigs seemed somehow miraculous to me, and I proceeded to take full advantage of the situation. When the M.E.N. decided to constrict its coverage to only the very biggest bands, Simon Poole approached me with a plan to make sure that all the very talented musicians of this world that pass through and/or live in Manchester would not go unnoticed. As the New Releases editor here at Silent Radio Towers, it remains my proud duty to cast a critical eye over the music and reviews that come my way in a manner that is both supportive and fair. Above all, I strive to write as entertainingly possible. Favourite musicians include the Pixies, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Mercury Rev, Os Mutantes, The Knife, Beach House etc etc. I'm a firm believer that all genres (except nu-metal) contain music of great quality...