Dustin Kensrue – This Good Night Is Still Everywhere
Record Label: Vagrant Records
Release Date: November 18, 2008
Battle lines may be drawn around screamo, and power-pop certainly has its share of haters, but Christmas music can be pretty polarizing too. You either love it any form (see: Joe) or you scowl at even the most stripped-down, department store musak version of “Jingle Bells” (see: my girlfriend). Personally, I’m closer to the “lovin’ it” camp, but I’m rather picky with my Christmas music. These are time-tested tunes and I won’t put up with some hack’s remix of “Holly Jolly Christmas, Yo.” Do it right or don’t do it at all.
Naturally, I was psyched to hear that Dustin Kensrue, lead singer of post-rockers Thrice, would be releasing his acoustic Christmas album, This Good Night Is Still Everywhere. If anyone can swing a ten-track holiday celebration (eight covers, two originals), then it’s got to be the man with the soulful passion and the oh-so-lovable, dragged-over-gravel vocals. Right? Well, sort of.
This Good Night Is Still Everywhere starts off painlessly enough with a fairly standard rendition of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” Fine, no harm, no foul. Some of the other covers, such as “Blue Christmas” and “O Holy Night,” are similarly true to their original form (almost to the point of boredom), while others, especially the bouncing “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” and the softly haunting “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” translate wonderfully through Kensrue’s guitar.
Representing the lower end of the spectrum, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” quite simply should not have been included on the record. It’s 1:45 of sheer, power-chorded inanity. Fortunately, Kensrue hits the mark with the remaining two covers. The muted success of “Christmas Blues” is no surprise given the man’s naturally expressive pipes. “Fairytale of New York” is a winner in part because of the original version’s excellent construction (courtesy of The Pogues) and in part because of Kensrue’s treatment of it. It rocks in all the right places, and having tweaked the lyrics a bit to remove some of the original offensive language, his cover brings a twinge of sadness to the end of the Irish romp.
Given the multitude of Christmas songs that have been written over the years, the fact that Kensrue’s originals hold up among the classics is surely a testament to his ability. The title track paints a pretty seasonal portrait in traditional fashion without straying too far outside of the lines. “This is War,” the album’s closer, begins ominously, in a very Grinchy manner (as if the song’s title wasn’t enough); however, by the end of the track, it’s clear that this is, well, the good kind of war, as Kensrue sings, “This is war on sin and death/ Dark will take its final breath.” It’s celebratory in that sort of Old Testament, God-is-really-gonna-kick-your-ass kind of way.
As Christmas albums go, This Good Night Is Still Everywhere isn’t too bad at all. It might not deck out the tree with all the trimmings, but it’ll at least hang the stockings (that was a little merriment metaphor for you – yeah, that just happened). There are several finely executed tracks and the few duds don’t completely derail an otherwise pleasant experience. It’s almost the time of year when we should all be cozying up to a fire with a cup of hot chocolate and I can’t think of a voice I’d rather hear echoing through the snowy evening.
I was actually going to write a review for this tomorrow, but I don't think I can really add anything that this doesn't already say. It's a little disappointing because of how much I really love Please Come Home.