Record Review: Cristina – Sleep It Off [part 2]

Ze Records | EUR | CD | 2004 | ZEREC.CD12

Cristina: Sleep It Off Euro CD [2004]

  1. What’s A Girl To Do
  2. Ticket To The Tropics
  3. The Lie Of Love
  4. Quicksand Lovers
  5. Rage & Fascination
  6. Ballad Of Immortal Earnings
  7. She Can’t Say That Anymore
  8. Blue Money
  9. Don’t Mutilate My Mink
  10. He Dines Out On Death
  11. Smile
  12. Deb Behind Bars
  13. Things Fall Apart
  14. When U Were Mine
  15. Deb Behind Bars [Alternate Version]
  16. You Rented A Space

[Continued from previous post]

After the blistering opening numbers, the intensity is dialed down for the mellow “Lie Of Love.” Musically, the song is not a million miles away from standard Maria Muldaur cabaret fare, but of course the lyrics are as cutting as only Cristina can be.

“She needed his strength…
He needed her fear.
She’s scared of the dark…
He’s scared that he’s queer.
She only drinks wine…
He prefers beer.” – Lie Of Love

“Quicksand Lovers” marches to the drummer of a percussive, rhumba beat while Cristina offers worst case scenarios of love that leave the protagonists she is singing about damaged husks in the wake of predators who make a mockery of that emotion. After they move on to their next victim they’ll just grin. The album then reaches a baleful nadir with the haggard “Rage And Fascination. Co-writers Joe Mavety and Ben Brierley [both Marianne Faithfull co-writers] are in their sweet spot as Ms. Monet crafts an acidic screed directed at herself as much as her accomplice. The plodding beat has the finality of death as she unleashes the venomous lyrics below.

“When you’re cruel, that’s not what keeps me here
I’m not on a torch-song bender.
You’re too bitchy for my notions of a man
And your arms are far too slender.
It’s just my admiration
We do things very well.
It takes a lot of know-how
Making such a stylish hell.
All that disdain spiked with mutual acclaim
As we perfect our game,
In rage and fascination
Rage and fascination
Rage and fascination
As I watch you…” – Rage + Fascination

Sardonic enough for you? She makes Warren Zevon seem like a choirboy! There were few writers pushing the emotional envelope as far as she did, but the music her co-writers bring to the table is every bit the equal to that found in the works from the same period by Marianne Faithfull and Grace Jones. In many cases, they’re the same people! The band had been culled from Ze’s excellent stable of large groups of the time: Was [Not Was], Kid Creole and The Coconuts, and even James Chance from James White + The Blacks! Jean-Paul Goode was drafted in to design the cover, so the minds at Ze knew what they were doing. So did Goode, who remade the cover the next year for Jones!

The remastered CD is resequenced from the original vinyl album, as shown below.

Mercury | US | LP | 1984 | 814 980-1 M-1

Mercury | US | LP | 1984 | 814 980-1 M-1

Cristina: Sleep It Off US LP [1984]

  1. Don’t Mutilate My Mink
  2. Ticket To The Tropics
  3. She Can’t Say That Anymore
  4. Quicksand Lovers
  5. Rage And Fascination
  6. Ballad Of Immoral Earnings
  7. What’s A Girl To Do
  8. The Lie Of Love
  9. Blue Money
  10. He Dines Out On Death

Beyond the superficial change in typography, the album’s three cover tunes are now grouped together like a suite as the contents have been dramatically resequenced around them. It says volumes that Brecht & Weill’s “Ballad Of Immoral Earnings” can follow fare like “Rage & Fascination” and sound lighter in comparison! On the Brecht number, she duets with Ben Brierley, who was actually Marianne Faithfull’s husband at the time. He doesn’t sing so much as sneer. A cover of the 1980 John Conlee [!] country hit “She Can’t Say That Any More” follows and in spite of it being a country song, it fits the singer and album like a glove. Brierley’s backing vocals are a great counterpoint to Cristina’s embittered emoting. I have to admit that this song is stuck in my mind for the last few days as I’ve extensively listened to this album [and haven’t tired of it at all].

She hits a fevered peak on the next track, a pitch-black cover of Van Morrison’s jauntily cynical 1970 hit “Blue Money.” Here, Cristina doesn’t so much sing as snarl to accompany the bleak cabaret music that’s festooned with superficial jollity that barely conceals the contempt for the pimps and hustlers that are exploiting the woman making all of that blue money the song’s extolling. Boyfriends or pornographers. It’s all the same to the girl at the end of a lens… or a fist. Only this time it’s a woman who has appropriated the narrative from the male and Cristina spits out the lyrics like a hail of bullets! This stands as one of my favorite covers of all time as Cristina takes the song places Van Morrison was simply incapable of doing. This is brilliant art, feminism, and music. And the sweet if incongruous rockabilly solo by Doug Fieger [?!] in the middle eight didn’t hurt, either!

The next song originally opened up the album and it’s a stunner. “Don’t Mutilate My Mink” sounds like a glimpse of what Midge Ure’s guitar would have sounded like fronting the Sex Pistols. Don’t laugh! Ure says it almost happened. This storming number takes no prisoners as Cristina expectorates the acid couplets in a fashion that shows her to be Grace Jones only real competition for sheer intimidation. The two chords wailing underneath her vocals pack a minimal, but focused, punch. Cristina’s deadpan delivery is a wonder to behold.

“There’s snow on my stilletos
I think it’s time we part
This game you want to finish
I don’t even want to start
Don’t tell me that I’m frigid
Don’t try to make me think
I’ll do just fine without you
Don’t mutilate my mink.” – Don’t Mutilate My Mink

Then the album eases up the tension for a sucker gut punch that ends the original album on a powerfully Quixotic note. What acoustic folk ballad ever had lyrics like this? I can’t help but quote the entire song because I am still in awe at the achievement here 28 years later.

He Dines Out On Death

“How could she do it?
There’s nothing to it
A fistful of pills in a foreign hotel
She left a note calling him
Heartless and ruthless
And wishing him well, wishing him well….

Now he dines out on death.

“How could she do it?
Can I live through it?”
In this week’s chic restaurant
He touches the hand
Of a vapid-eyed girl who once put sweet lips to it
She says, “I understand, oh, I understand….”

Now he dines out on death.

“How could she do it?
Let’s help him live through it”
Say the New York hostesses
“He takes it so well
He lends such distinction to her self-extinction
Let’s throw him a party, he must be in hell….”

Now he dines out on death.” – He Dines Out On Death

Next: …the Bonus Tracks

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
This entry was posted in Core Collection, Deadpan Women, Record Review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Record Review: Cristina – Sleep It Off [part 2]

  1. Echorich says:

    Ice Queen, Disco Dolly, Stilletto wearing, Stilletto carrying, Downtown Diva!!!

    Like

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