Do They Know Its Halloween? Single, Maxi
|1. Do They Know It's Hallowe'en? (Original Version)|
|2. Do They Know It's Hallowe'en? (Radio Edit)|
|3. Do They Know It's Hallowe'en? (Disco D Remix)|
|4. Do They Know It's Hallowe'en? (Th' Corn Gangg Remix)|
This fall's sweetest and scariest benefit song features a star-studded ensemble (Beck, Sum 41, The Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Peaches, Devendra Banhart, Postal Service, Sonic Youth, Sloan, Feist, Wolf Parade, Buck 65) known as the North American Halloween Prevention Initiative. Both a trick and a treat, this anti-Halloween call to arms / satire is a charity benefit song with all the labels' proceeds and artists' royalties being donated to UNICEF. The inspiration stems from a frustration with other benefit songs' misguided, somewhat patronizing attitude, and Western-centric worldview. It asks the rest of the world to help us end this night of fear and terror. Also stars a grab bag of legends such as David Cross, Malcolm McLaren, Elvira, Sparks, and more. Co-produced by Steven McDonald of Redd Kross.
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It's a great, sarcastic song and a poke in the eye to Geldof and all. Beck does a great job with his pseudo-serious singing. It's very catchy and has great lines like "Children on the street, begging for treats... Parents are hiding, our babies are sobbing.", "Dead dogs and broomsticks, pumpkins and flames. Ending this night, ending the shame!", and "They [the rest of the world] don't know what we endure once a year."
So it was with glee that I picked up "Do They Know It's Halloween," a wildly tongue-in-cheek parody with an all-star cast of indie-rockers... and a few others too (Elvira anyone?). Rather than sounding like a mishmash, it sounds like a carol sung by the Addams Family -- weird, wonky and riotously funny.
It opens with Beck and Karen O, crooning, "Once a year on a spooky night/it's Halloween... and what a fright!", followed by Win and Regina of Arcade Fire, "Young boys and ghouls... in ghoulish disguise/they cover their skin, conceal their eyes." That kicks off a new-wavy little indie-rock tune, full of ghosts, ghouls, dark humor, trick-or-treating, and death by bobbing for apples.
There's also a brief interlude where David Cross assumes that it's all a joke... and as the horrified shrieks continue, he starts wailing, "Come out please! It's not funny anymore... OH MY GOD IN HEAVEN!"
It's followed up by a trio of reinvented or remixed versions. There's the radio edit, which basically has the middle part of it missing, followed by the "Disco D" remix, which is basically the same tune with scattered "Help us! It's too late...," hysterical pleas and ghoulish gloating. Finally there's "Th' Corn Gangg Remix," a creepy reworking with a dark, urgent sound.
How can you go wrong with a vocal cast like this? Beck, Karen O, Wolf Parade, Arcade Fire, Sonic Youth, Postal Service, pop wunderkinds Smoosh, Feist, Rilo Kiley, Devendra Banhart and Peaches, with Elvira and Nardwuar as some non-singing extras. And it doesn't go wrong. Though each singer gets only a line or two before it switches to someone else, the vocals switch smoothly from person to person.
Among the highlights are Beck's faux-serious crooning, Peaches and Feist's creepy vocals, and that little freak-out interlude with David Cross. It's also written with macabre humor and a few subtle jibes at Geldof and Co. "Drowning in a bucket of apples bobbing/parents are hiding, babies are sobbing," goes one line, as well as "The writing's on the tombstone under the willow tree" -- what, did you expect a wall?
If Tim Burton ever made an indie-rock song, it would probably sound like "Do They Know It's Halloween," a bizarre and funny all-star parody. Thoroughly entertaining.