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“Loving Man,” with its ecstatic gender-blurring one minute (“I’m A boy/I’m a girl/Who has everything”), bipolar furor at rejection the next, and frustrating refusal to climax musically, sounds dragged in from another project, matching the Yuletide sentiment only insofar as it nods to love and devotion. Other tunes suggest prickliness on those subjects, the leadoff track frank on “I don’t believe in your religion” and a whole lot of other bad stuff — but hitched to hope, hitched to the bells (no morbid Poe here, not even by way of Lou Reed). Blocking out an agenda and an argument. A conversation many folks have to have with their families this time of year.

But, willing to compromise. Willing to seek beauty in the old standbys. “Gaudete” and “In the Bleak Midwinter” may be less familiar to Yank ears, but the duo marks both sold solid. The former pulls out synthetic church bell presets circa keyboardist Vince Clarke’s ’80s work with Yaz, and if a little Auto-Tune helps singer Andy Bell summon his caroling-midst-the-drift bit, well, these two were disco back when disco still had a bad name, and disco loves voice tricks.

“Bleak Midwinter” predates “The Little Drummer Boy” thematically (tune by Holst, lyrics by Christina Rossetti). What can I give to the divine (child), I who have nothing? “Give him my heart.” That works. That works for just about everyone. I hope. And if hope is the message, we need it all through the year.

  • Artist: Erasure
  • Album: Snow Globe
  • Label: Mute
  • Songs: (1) Bells Of Love (Isabelle’s Of Love) (2) Gaudete (3) Make It Wonderful (4) Sleep Quietly (5) Silent Night (6) Loving Man (7) The Christmas Song (8) Bleak Midwinter (9) Blood On The Snow (10) They’ll Be No Tomorrow (11) Midnight Clear (12) White Christmas (13) Silver Bells
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