Wednesday, December 09, 2015

My Musical Advent Calendar

"Christmas Wrapping" /
The Waitresses
Here's a little time machine to the 80s...
Remember the Waitresses?  Or at least, remember their one hit, "I Know What Boys Like"? A sassy little post-punk number from the same MTV era that brought us the Go-Gos and the Bangles. Well, here's their other modest hit -- and it's a wonderful antidote to holiday schmaltz.

The Waitresses -- hailing from Akron, Ohio, hometown of Chrissie Hynde and Devo -- were led by Chris Butler, guitarist and songwriter, who by the way was in the crowd the day of the Kent State shootings in 1970. (This may or may not be relevant, but being from that era myself, I can't let go of that fact.)  It's intriguing, though, that they had a female lead singer, Patty Donohue, and that Butler wrote songs to reflect a female outlook.

And "Christmas Wrapping" (get the pun with "rapping"?) is about as disaffected a Christmas song as you'll hear -- no wonder it starts with "Bah humbug!"


Yeah, she likes Christmas in general, but she's distracted this year -- working too hard, stretched too thin (sound familiar?). Weaving through it all is her on-again, off-again flirtation with a guy who might be the one, but -- "Had his number, but never the time" -- it hasn't yet gone anywhere, really.

The shallow garage-y production, the jerky tempos, they're all so New Wave, (this song was released in 1981, after all) and Donohue's vocals nail that bored, listless affect. I love how those verses end with a sickening thud: "Christmas by myself this year," "Get this winter over with," or "But I think, I'll miss this one this year."

Yes, they trot out some of the holiday standard clichés, but only to turn them on their heads:
Hardly dashing through the snow
'Cause I bundled up too tight 
Last minute have to do 
A few cards a few calls. 
'Cause it's "RSVP"
No thanks, no party lights
It's Christmas eve, gonna relax
Turned down all of my invites 

 And how sad she seems, with her single girl holiday meal -- "A & P has provided me / With the world's smallest turkey."

But then -- a Christmas miracle! -- she has to run back out to the store for cranberries and --

Oh, but don't let me spoil it for you. Listen to the song already.

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