Perhaps the height of Devastationalist romantic integrity is the idea of dying (either figuratively or literally) for the loss of love: “I said you were my life, my heart, my soul, and now you’re gone; so I will stand true by my words, my feelings, and I will make myself begone, too!” A perfect musical example of this is that Dido song, “White Flag,” which seemed to be playing in every deli and cab and restaurant for a rather longish stretch there a few years back. In that song, the singer is a teary, bleary wreck, yet nonetheless looking the world in the eye and seething with steely defiance as she sings:
I will go down with this ship
And I won’t put my hands up and surrender
There will be no white flag above my door
I’m in love, and always will be
“White Flag” is actually a beautiful song, I think, kind of like bubble-gum Nico. But the point is that I really believed this was a brave and heroic stance, and one with real-life credibility. Now I’m not so sure. Living (or trying to live) a non-Devastationalist life doesn’t inoculate you from pain, loss or sadness, of course. But what it can change, profoundly, is how you respond to pain, loss or sadness when they inevitably come a-knockin’ on your door. It allows you to see that refusing to go down with the ship might just be the path of greater integrity. Maybe the true measure of love isn’t necessarily the agony of loss after all.
Fucking brilliant deduction, right? But these are exactly the kinds of things about which I have never had any perspective whatsoever, where I’ve had to fight for every blessed millimeter of higher ground. I honestly have no idea if there is a sane and sensible way that other people think about this stuff. There are ankle-grasping wailers, I know, and cool stoics, and all the flavors in between. But everyone has a line they won’t cross, right?
“Ho Ho Ho” was written one lonely winter in an unheated, unfurnished tenement on La Salle Street, and first recorded at Josh Korda’s loft on 15th Street. I still like that original recording best, with its sleigh bells and toy piano, but I’ve long since lost any halfway-decent-sounding copy of that tape. There are also several full-band versions from over the years — it keeps coming up for its obvious perennial qualities — but for some reason it always loses its essence and gets weird or funky in band settings. So, that leaves this bare acoustic version, which comes reasonably close to capturing the spirit of the song, a few egregiously muffed chords notwithstanding.
Lost love, sure, and a Christmas miracle, maybe. Depends on the price.
Ho Ho Ho
Look over there, right by the skyline
If you don’t see it then you must be blind
And I really like the way you look tonight
From the front and from behind
I feel so strange and I don’t know why
Is it just a special time of year?
I don’t know
And if it’s something I don’t want to hear?
Well then, let it go
‘Cause I don’t want a little bag of gold
For the fights I throw
Have a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year
And say Ho Ho Ho
We’re singing Ho Ho Ho
The Freixenet is there on the nightstand
And your glass is over there on the floor
If I could hear those bells and see those lights
I wouldn’t ask for anything more
The snow came down from a cloudy sky