Thursday, 13 May 2010


Sleep It Off was Cristina's second and final album and it was produced by Don Was of Was (Not Was) who also co-wrote several of the songs.  This reissue also features a couple of tracks from an earlier session with Robert Palmer as well as Cristina's contribution to the Ze Records Christmas compilation, Things Fall Apart.  However, despite receiving glowing reviews from the likes of Rolling Stone and The Face, the record was a flop and Cristina retired from the music business.

This has to be one of the biggest injustices of the music business I've heard of.  Sleep It Off is one of the most stunning albums I've heard in a long time --- genuinely innovative whilst seemingly deceptively simple.  I know disco gets a bad press even with those who love dance music.  Personally, my problem with it is that it simply doesn't reflect the eccentricity, decadence and biting wit of those immersed in the nightlife scene.  But far out on the wilder shores of disco, you get artists like Klaus Nomi and Grace Jones who are every bit as challenging and experimental as anything indie or rock music could produce.  And Cristina can rightly claim her place among those disco mavericks.

There is a strong sense of irony and a biting wit in her lyrics observing the bored rich socialites of New York's nightlife.  Her jaded world-weary demeanour, however, is always swathed in glamour and spiced up with a dash of sass so that she harks back to traditional movie stars like Marlene Dietrich or Tallulah Bankhead.   Her intelligent boredom and sophisticated despair also reminded me of Louise Brooks.  The album showcases a good mixture of styles (from upbeat pop numbers like Ticket To the Tropics to laidback contemplations like Rage and Fascination) and moods (from the defiant, almost punk delivery of Don't Mutilate My Mink to the disjointed bleakness of Things Fall Apart).   One of my favourite tracks is He Dines Out On Death, a stripped down acoustic ode to a gentleman who sees his lover's suicide as a social opportunity but really, there are so many gems on this album including a cover version of a Brecht and Weil song, Ballad of Immoral Earnings.

The Dresden Dolls have also cited Brecht as an influence and Cristina's stylish black humour does remind me of a disco version of Amanda Palmer crossed with the deadpan glamour of Grace Jones/Amanda Lear with the suicidal urges of Nico lurking in the background while the downright insanity of Klaus Nomi quietly laughs at us all.  It's a rare talent to be able to pull together all these disparate (and sometimes contradictory) elements but Cristina managed it.  The album also perfectly evokes that particular scene (the beautiful people of early 80s New York) but still feels timeless.  It's an amazing album that has quickly become one of my all time favourites.

Cristina's songwriting partner and producer, Don Was said of her --- "We didn't have girls like her in Detroit.  I went to dinner with her and I remember feeling intellectually dwarfed.  --- Sleep It Off is an incredibly honest representation of what she was about.  Twenty years later, I've learned that's what you want to do when you produce an album --- take a snapshot of somebody.  I didn't fully realise it at the time but she achieved a certain artistic ideal."


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