Sunday, 11 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #100 - The Waitresses, "Wasn't Tomorrow Wonderful?"

Blondie's less glamorous, more provincial and (dare I write it?) more intelligent cousins. Twitchy New Wave backing band, largely composed of guys with big eyebrows, one of whom also co-produced (Chris Butler). Known for the Christmas alternative hit "Christmas Wrapping" and the seedy "I Know What Boys Like".

This album was one of the last bunch I got from Cob Records in Bangor last week; a Ze Records LP with the mutated disco/funk sensibilities that label suggests; satirical sex solos and clever lyrics. But aside from the better known tunes, I also have an MP3 of a tune that was played on John Peel many years ago from a 1978 compilation of bands from Akron, Ohio. It's called "The Slide", it's wonderful; and interestingly, it features one of the bristle-browed man-dudes on vocal duties. I wonder about the reasons for the switch, as the album only has Patty Donahue doing the singing. My cynical mind wanders towards cynical answers.

There's something in the tone of her voice, snotty and set square for a fight, that really belongs to that post-punk/New Wave era. Everyday themes lyrically, but I hear the political strewn about the political: that might just be the flavour of the time though. The title track asks "What's a girl to do?" and half-answers "pretty victories" as opposed to sex and shopping. Sex and the City it isn't. (Maybe the message is undermined by following it up with the teasing on "I Know What Boys Like" - or maybe it isn't. Having playground "Nyeh Nyeh Nyeh Nyeh Neh" in the lyrics suggests this isn't Pussycat Dolls territory either.)

On side two, "Pussy Strut" is an ode to ..well.. a Pussy Strut - with a nice sleazy sax underneath. Not sure which gender is doing the strutting, but I don't suppose that's important. "Go On" is nearer the traditional "My man done me wrong" template running through a gallery of failed relationships, but here too she's not letting herself off the hook either - "He was nice/I was brutal/...I guess if he wants me he must not be good enough".

Something about the music is too eager to please though; and while I like what's going on, I don't get no shivers. I return to this stupid idea of mine that this music is human-shaped, concerned with themes outside the usual pop/rock lexicon. "Redland", in particular, imagining when the revolution comes ("It won't be better/But I'll settle for different...I won't be happy/But I'll be relieved") and the effect it will have on her social life and wondering if the uniforms will be in her sizes. Dryly putting the political and personal in a properly fluid relationship. ("Dry fluid"? Like in dry cleaning?) But even though I think the lyrics are great, I wish there was more drama, more depth or contrast or something in the music.

"Jimmy Tomorrow" is a great final track. A touch of Socratic dialogue. Well, not quite - but I like to think there or thereabouts. Any album that ends with the words "My goals are to find a cure for irony and make a fool out of God" should be compulsory listening.

Rating: Thinking Man's Thinking Woman out of The Post-Punk Past

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