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HO HO WHO: Some of the most highly regarded smart guys in D.C.’s indie-pop underground, The Caribbean. “What Child Is This” is their contribution to the never ending beginning, the free 2011 Christmas compilation by their label, Hometapes.
WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? Why, it’s a complete reworking of the beloved 19th century English hymn by William Chatterton Dix. The Caribbean chops out several chunks of Dix’s original text and nixes the original “Greensleeves” melody. But there’s still plenty of reverence in the mix: Matthew Byars’ monotone vocals are almost meditative, and the music—-a repetitive acoustic-guitar riff, some abstract percussion, a few well-placed vocal overdubs—-is sneakily majestic.
EASTBOUND AND DOWN: This ain’t the spear-pierced Christ or the King of Kings enthroned; it’s a fragile newborn in a dusty, cold, windswept Middle Eastern manger. Some long nights are ahead—-as well as two millennia of cultural ascendancy on earth, filtered through the flaws of mankind. Maybe that’s why it sounds a little ominous, too?
CHEER FACTOR: 8/10. The best “What Child Is This” remake since the one by The Wonderful World of Joey.