Cristina: Things Fall Apart UK 7″ 
- Things Fall Apart [v. 1]
- Disco Clone
The Monk doesn’t really have too much seasonal cheer and musical memories tied into Christmas. I can count the Christmas songs I really enjoy on the fingers of one stump, for the most part. This record is singular in the Monk’s Record Cell for being holiday oriented and yet…utterly compelling.
This song was my first taste of the incomparable Cristina Monet. Back in 1981, when WPRK-FM, my local cool college radio station was besotted with all things Ze, they played a passel of punk-funk tunes throughout most of the year. In 1981 the “Ze Christmas Album” was released and this track got heavy airplay during the most wonderful time of the year. It begins with a musical box melody that fades into a brittle reverb before the stinging guitars begin adding their acid into the mix. Ms. Monet’s fatalistic vocals then begin their deadpan observations on how she is fated to careen through life never fitting in with “the crowd” and living “alone again, alone.”
The music is co-written and produced by Was (Not Was) and this a less frantic outing that the band’s early Zappa goes Funkadelic phase. The insistent guitar riffs gently add anxiety to the listener as the song progresses and Cristina reviews the [non]events of her Christmas season with a clinical, dispassionate glare. Underneath it all, the nihilistic rhythm section purrs like a cat waiting to pounce.
This is matte black and chromium rock disco with a heart of steel and a degree from Amherst.
The B-side was Cristina’s debut single from 1978, in an alternate production by Bob Blank, and the owner of her label [and her spouse], Michael Zilkha. The original single was produced by John Cale on 12″ in an edition of 1500 copies and I’ve never had the pleasure. This version is a very witty disco song that looked satirically at the whole disco phenomenon while being drenched in over-exposed disco tropes like those verdammt strings. The actual lead vocal is an uncredited Kevin Kline, at his suave best as a disco lothario attempting to put the moves a girl in the club only to come to the realization that they’re all really the same, so maybe it doesn’t matter anyway. Cristina plays each bimbette he’s fixated on with a girlish glee that sounds terribly wrong having first heard her on the A-side.
The A-side was re-configured the following year on the 1982 re-boot of the “Ze Christmas Album” with a slightly different mix that had a different conclusion of the final verse. I have that LP so I’m lucky enough to have both versions in-house. This song made me a huge fan of Cristina, and I was excited to find she had previously released an album on Ze as produced by August Darnell. I snapped that up and can’t say I cared for it as much as the stance evidenced on this single. Fortunately, in 1983, my patience was rewarded with her second and final album, the incomparable classic “Sleep It Off.” More about which I will pontificate on one fine day.
– 30 –
Wonderful! Big fan of Ze and Cristina. The NYC No Wave, Funk Wave scene was so amazing back at the turn of the 80’s…It still amazes me that Was Not Was went on to be the lumbering beast that they were by the end of the 80’s. Cristina and label mate Lizzie Mercier were amazing talents exploited beautifully by Ze Records and Michael Zilkha.
As for Xmas tracks I have three I can not do without this time of year:
1. Christmas Day – Squeeze
2. Thanks For Christmas – Three Wise Men (XTC)
3. 25th of December – Everything But The Girl
Echorich – One of my pet peeves is missing W(NW) on their “What Up Dog” tour – much less any other tour they ever undertook! Having them back for “Boo!” was sweet. In a rare moment, I bought that the day of release. As for Cristina, come back! All is forgiven! The huge qualitative difference between her first and second album is staggering, even though I love August Darnell, I don’t think much of the debut. But the followup, being full of Cristina; pure, uncut Cristina if you will, is phenomenally superior.
You list shocks me. I only have/have heard of the Three Wise Men track! Wait! I just remembered the brilliant “This Holiday Season” by Porn Orchard! I have only ever heard that once on WPRK-FM in the nineties. Many years later, I tracked down who had done it and in 2006, when I was a heavy La-La [r.i.p.] user I actually got someone to trade me the “Flagpole Christmas Album” and the CD finally arrived at my home… broken in its mailer! It was the one time I’ve ever received a damaged CD in the mail! Sonnuva…!!!
Oh, and Happy Holidays to you, too!
I walked into Metro Records in Little Neck, Queens, NY back in the late fall/early winter of 1979 and sitting in the singles bin was Squeeze – Christmas Day. 7″ of WHITE vinyl. It is one of my truly cherished 7″ singles. As an Anglophile it’s brilliant name checking everything typically 70’s Britain about Christmas time. It is a non lp track that managed to not chart in the UK after two consecutive hits for the band. It’s also the last vestage of the “Cool for Cats” sound and has a real bridge feeling for the soon to come Argybargy.
The B-side, Going Crazy is a great track that didn’t resurface until the Big Squeeze compilation. I love Going Crazy because it is particularly dissonant in comparison to other Squeeze fare. There is even a wierd synth/bagpipe sound at the end and it has a pretty haunting/manic ending.
Now as for Cristina, she is a downtown icon along the lines of Debbie Harry to many music and clubbing fans from the early 80’s. I agree Sleep It Off is a superior record, but Cristina/Doll In A Box is a capsule of the No Wave/Funk Wave scene, making it really special for me. I have always loved to play Cristina’s take on Baby You Can Drive My Car to piss off my Beatles friends…
My fave Ze Records tracks are the aforementioned Drive My Car, Out Come The Freaks and Wheel Me Out by Was (Not Was), Contort Yourself by James Chance and the Contortions/James White and the Blacks, Bustin Out by Nona Hendryx and Material, I Know What Boys Like by The Waitresses and Funky Stuff by Lizzie Mercier. In fact every time I hear La Roux or Ladyhawke I can help but thing of Lizzie Mercier.
Enjoy the coming year of record hunting! Happy New Year!!
R.I.P. Lizzy Mercier Descloux
@ Ron, if Ze Records had legs they were Lizzy’s and they danced all over the place! World music pioneer before the term was even coined. Minimalist disco funk worldbeat. The Brazilian album she recorded with Chet Baker in 86 is amazing.
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