Monday, May 21, 2007

Don't Mutilate My Mink

Tonight at dinner with my writing group at the Baghdad Café (which we sometimes dub the Algonquin West), I was interested to learn the varying level of awareness (in part due to Saturday’s post here) about Neil Hannon and the Divine Comedy. Some had gone so far as to explore his YouTube videos, such as the stunning "Sunrise", the finale of his Fin de Siecle, the sort of song U2 might cut if they were…oh, I’ll hold off on my U2 barbs for now.

Based on the few comments and many more emails I’ve received as a result of that post, it seems that all my female friends are rushing and gushing to buy CDs and my gay male friends think I’ve lost my sanity. They are even more brutal when I pull out my (I have to admit completist) Mark Eitzel/American Music Club. Sorry, Kylie, Madonna and Whitney and their ilk just don’t sing to my heart or pocket book.

Now, don’t think I don’t have my female musical muses that range from Vashti Bunyan, Nina Simone, Francoise Hardy, Nico and, on the right day, Ute Lemper. The recent increased interest in Divine Comedy made me pull out her release Punishing Kiss which was sort of a cross over disc, and I saw her at Davies Hall during that tour. Half the crowd walked out around the time her piercing voice sand Nick Cave’s "Little Water Song," a really brilliant murder ballad sung from the perspective of a woman that was being drowned by her lover. I was going through a particularly nasty break up then, and it spoke to me a little to closely – the sentiment was that “you may be killing me, but you’ll never be able to be inside my head or soul.” Listening to Punishing Kiss 3/4ths of a decade later, it sounds comfortably distant and 50% brilliant and 50% goofy and click ahead to the next track. Ute could potentially be in my top 10 list because she is willing to belt out so harshly, almost a Weimar Joplin at times, but then she will go into these over affected, Al Jarreau on crack mannerisms. But she can be hilarious at times, and I will never forget her self-introduction of “I come from Berlin, that little scar of a city on the arse of Europe.” And revisiting Scott Walker's epic 11 minute "Scope J" in a post-9/11, post-Tilt world gives it much greater resonance.

Thinking of women that I’d add to that list, I was reminded of Cristina Monet or just Cristina who was the grande dame of No Wave and the Norma Shearer of Ze Records back in the early 1980s. Well, I’ll be darned, she is the first beloved artist that actually stumped YouTube. I have her two complete LPs from Cristina (1980) and Sleep It Off (1984) that opened with the killer track "Don't Mutilate My Mink", and I think her version of "Ballad of Immoral Earning" is my all time favorite. Those tunes, especially on the latter LP, are very much where I was at that time -- all downtown angst channeling Weimar energy. She had one of the best Christmas tunes of all time, "Things Fall Apart" as well as a mean, snarling cover of "Is That All There Is?" that pre-dated P.J. Harvey's version by a decade or so. But it does not seem that there will be a behind the music until I become CEO of VH1. At least there is a fansite out there for Cristina. If you really love me, I'll burn you a CD of my favorite of her tracks

In the meantime, I am really wanting to take a blogger/youtube, et. al. holiday this Memorial Weekend. Time for Proust, friends, haute Japanese cuisine, gardening and exercise. Oh, and brushing up the Castilian and Catalan.

Labels: , , , , , ,


At 9:59 AM, Anonymous Chris aka LostCalifornian on below: said...

hey JT, stumbled onto your stuff via a comment on the kusala blog.

Indeed Ute L has become incredibly mannered of late. I've heard her live 2x in the last few years, and that's the right term. I haven't decided yet whether this is a disabling drawback, or something she deserves to be indulged in. She's got the voice and the intelligence, sometimes it's the taste I wonder about... but then, de gustibus and all that. God knows I loved "Punishing Kiss," especially the Little Water Song and the Elvis Costello song "Couldn't You Keep That to Yourself?" And it was this disc that introduced me to TDC.

I *remember* Cristina's version of "Is That All There Is?" as if it were yesterday - just never knew who sang it. Looking through the fan site, I see she's about five years older than me, so she and I must have just missed overlap at that H place in Boston/Cambridge.

At 10:01 AM, Anonymous Chris said...

that was meant to indicate that my account on the site is "LostCalifornian," which sort of functions as a MySpace-type page for me.

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Junk Thief said...

Thanks, Chris, and I checked your FastCupid page. It's a bit spooky to see some of the overlapping interests. Ute, Poulenc and Joan D? Play It As It Lays, indeed. I also saw Ute at Town Hall in 1993 when I lived in Park Slope when she was going through her first Piaf/Dietrich phase.

Were she to exercise a little restraint and save the missle blaster notes for the finale I'd love her a lot more.

Gosh, I think Cristina and I are exactly the same age. I also loved her little ditty "She Dines Out on Death." Of course, the "Was Brothers" moved on from her to be big deal producers in the late '80s, early '90s and were never as much fun when they hit the big time. I didn't go to the H place, and she had faded from the scene by the time I was in Manhattan. So, alas, our paths never crossed.

At 7:42 PM, Blogger fuikhvgjkguug said...



Post a Comment

<< Home