SINGERS WHO'VE GONE CRACKERS
Christmas albums -- don't you just hate them? It is with wearisome predictability that Michael Bublé has released one of these saccharine collections. Hearing Bing Crosby's White Christmas as a kid was apparently a formative experience for the Canadian crooner, who is in Dublin today to turn on Grafton Street's celebrated Christmas lights and unveil Brown Thomas's festive window display.
And it makes a certain amount of sense, too, that someone like Justin 'paternity test' Bieber would jump on the bandwagon. No doubt, his adoring fans will buy Under the Mistletoe by the truck-load, even if the vast majority of them are way to young to be doing anything naughty underneath the aforementioned plant.
What isn't nearly as easy to fathom is why Tim Wheeler -- frontman of Downpatrick's finest, Ash -- would also feel compelled to release an album of Christmas songs. Together with London singer-songwriter, Emma-Lee Moss, better known by her stage name Emmy the Great, Wheeler unveils This is Christmas today.
Recorded during the heat of August, This is Christmas boasts a handful of memorable tracks -- mainly because Wheeler and Moss know their way around a good melody -- but I was fit to shove sharp implements into my ears when hearing a Beach Boys-influenced Tim repeatedly sing that he'd love to be surfing on Christmas Day.
Next week, it's the turn of the First Couple of Twee, Zooey Deschanel and M Ward -- aka She & Him -- to release their Christmas collection. Unlike Wheeler and Emmy, this pair haven't even bothered to write their own songs, opting instead to record covers of such all-too-familiar favourites as Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree and Baby, It's Cold Outside.
Deschanel and Ward called it quits romantically shortly after recording the album. Who knows, maybe all that forced jollity was too much to bear for them?
My hatred of Christmas songs -- with the exception of the isn't-Christmas-miserable variety -- a la Fairytale of New York -- no doubt speaks volumes about this writer, but there you have it.
Incidentally, those who really want to get into the festive spirit might want to consult Bublé's website. New Christmas-inspired "Naughty but nice flirty undies" are now on sale. Get your skates on, Santa!
•Now that I've got the Scrooge bit out of the way, I'm pleased to hear that all sales from a new album of Achtung Baby covers will benefit Concern's East Africa emergency appeal.
The album was conceived by Q magazine to mark its 25th anniversary and timed to coincide with the 20th birthday of the seminal U2 release and can now be downloaded from iTunes.
Among the new covers specially commissioned by Q are Nine Inch Nails' take on Zoo Station, Damien Rice's (below) interpretation of One and The Killers' rendition of Ultra Violent (Light My Way). Long-term U2 associate Gavin Friday and (some would say) Bono-impersonator, weighs in with a version of The Fly.
"This crisis in East Africa is still very much an emergency and Concern is delighted that all of the parties involved are making this hugely significant contribution to our work in the region," according to Concern CEO, Tom Arnold. "It is disappointing that such a major ongoing humanitarian situation has largely disappeared from the media headlines."
•If you only do one thing this weekend, make the time to check out Okkervil River at the Button Factory, Dublin, tonight. The Texan group, fronted by the irrepressible, literary-minded Will Sheff, have been in the front rank of US indie for the past few years and their folk-inflected alternative rock packs quite a punch.
The last time I saw them play Dublin, they concluded proceedings with a memorable version of Abba's Does Your Mother Know?. Covering Abba, especially when your music could hardly be more different to that of the Swedish quartet, is always a good thing in my book.
Day & Night