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Trick or Treats: “Do They Know It’s Hallowe’en?”

on November 01, 2010, 2:06am

Forget death and taxes–there are quite a few more certainties in life. For example, whenever disaster strikes, so will a star-studded charity single. As a worthy cause gains support and awareness, a charity single will be there to help. The most recent examples of all-star recordings to raise money for relief efforts are the one-two punch of a new cover of “We Are the World” and a cover of “Everybody Hurts” that followed the devastating earthquake in Haiti. You remember those, right? Yeah, me neither.

No charity single is riper for parody than the big cheese itself: “Do they Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid. As unbelievably patronizing as the title is, moments such as Bono singing “Tonight, thank God it’s them instead of you” with all the sincerity in the world, make it an unintentional comedy classic. Taking the art of parody one step further than Pulp’s celebrity impersonator-filled video of “Bad Cover Version” is “Do They Know It’s Hallowe’en?” by the North American Hallowe’en Prevention, Inc.

Every charity single needs an impressive ensemble of performers, and “Do They Know It’s Hallowe’en?” more than delivers with a smorgasbord of indie rockers and some surprise guests, ranging from Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Régine Chassagne to Feist, from Devendra Banhart to the Mistress of the Dark herself, Elvira. And yes, that is none other than David Cross doing the terrified interlude.  Written by Nick Diamonds of Islands and We Are Molecules’ Adam Gollner, “Do They Know It’s Hallowe’en?” one-ups the condescending ethnocentrism of “Christmas” by asking an even more ridiculous question.

“Do They Know It’s Hallowe’en?” has the screams, thunder, and creepy chords expected from a Halloween song. Karen O eerily sings, “Once a year, on a spooky night, it’s Hallowe’en… and what a fright” at the beginning, but the proceedings soon become too absurd to be anything but hilarious. While the Band Aid single and its 20th anniversary redux operate under the presumption that everyone celebrates Christmas, or at least should, “Hallowe’en” ironically solicits assistance from “Latvia, Laos, Chad, Peru” in combating the wickedness of All Hallow’s Eve. Beck laments the horror of “children on streets, begging for treats”, and if these unspeakable acts of human desperation weren’t bad enough, they might get cavities. If only the rest of the world knew our plight!  Halloween is terrifying, indeed. Or not.

In the five years since its release, “Do They Know It’s Hallowe’en?” seems to have largely faded from memory, despite the caliber of the performers involved. Even the breakdown of each contributing artist and their respective lines is no longer available online at Vice Recordings. “Hallowe’en” may not be a scary song, but it’s an amusing novelty and a clever satire deserving of a listen or two. This trick is also a treat.

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