Magazine article The Spectator

A Spot of Advice

Magazine article The Spectator

A Spot of Advice

Article excerpt

What do you buy for The Spectator reader who has everything? Obviously this is not a problem that has troubled you in the past few weeks, but what about everyone else? Your relatives, friends, employees and indentured servants have wandered through the shops of our great metropolis, picking up candles, putting down candles, wondering whether humorous underpants are still de rigueur, and finally, in a moment of sudden clarity, remembering all those articles they read about how fashionable gift vouchers are this year. Defer the decision-making process. Let the recipient take the strain. It's an ingenious idea, which is why now, after the Christmas rush, the shops are full of furious people who have gift vouchers to spend but no idea what to spend them on. Some CDs, perhaps?

For the purest pop, tunes without fuss or nonsense, you could do worse than The Beautiful South's Quench (Mercury/Go! Discs), which is a slightly more muscular variation of their previous records, but the outstandingly tuneful album of 1998 remains The Divine Comedy's Fin De Siecle (Setanta), a toweringly ambitious work that combines orchestral complexity with effortless pop nous, and presages a career of longevity and greatness for its creator Neil Mannon. (He is still only 27. It doesn't seem entirely fair.) For mood, and generalised 1970s nostalgia, you need Air's Moon Safari (Source), which has topped most of the critics' polls this year and is already turning up as background music on a worrying number of low-grade documentaries. For absolute reliability there's always Joni Mitchell's sparkling Taming The Tiger (Reprise), which shows where pop music can be taken if you have the imagination and boldness to take it there. I have mentioned these albums before, and if you haven't bought them yet you are clearly slacking.

My other three records of the year are less well known but no less rewarding. …

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