Ho Ho Ho

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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

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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

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Feast Your Eyes

A glimmer of light amid the ruins. Doing good unto others is the surest way to gain the insight you need to clean up your own messes. The Girls always referred to this song as “Descendathon,” owing to the relentless plummet of its musical structure, and that’s inevitably how it appeared on set lists.

Feast Your Eyes

If you ever needed something
Like the rules of the games we play
I could stand here and tell you stories
But you’d disregard them anyway

I can’t say nothing, ’cause sometimes it is the only way
But it gets to be a drag if you need it every day

Rise and shine, little morning glory
Feast your eyes on another day
Have a shower and a cup of coffee
Rest awhile and then you’ll feel okay

I can’t say nothing, ’cause sometimes it is the only way
But there’s something I can do if you need a place to stay

Queen of Disgusting

This is another song I wish there was a better version of. Unlike “Saturday Night Live,” however, this song was written for a two-guitar band. In fact, it was probably written and banged around in All-Girl Band rehearsal (as opposed to lovingly nurtured in the privacy of my living room), now that I think about it. Tex, Lori and Clementine really brought it to life, and it sounds much better with them. Ah, well. This acoustic version will have to do for now, bum notes and all.

A spiritual-romantic plea sent by a Devastional drunk from a Sunday afternoon bender in the West Village. The title was taken from a mis-heard Van Morrison lyric. Verse chords lifted from Randy Newman’s “Baltimore.” The Vietnam-Vet part happened to my friend Kris, not me. My (gay) friend Bill heard us play the song live once, and afterwards he asked me incredulously what gay bar actually had “opera” on the jukebox — which tempted me to change the lyric. Anyhow, more or less true.

Queen of Disgusting

Happy hour in a gay bar on a Sunday afternoon
And I’m thinking how I thought that you were joking
And at the juke box a fat old queen plays another Abba tune
I like Abba, but I wish that the fucking thing was broken

You are the patron saint
Of light that’s always faint
Of ripped stockings and a lipstick smear
And all the things that I hold dear

Oh babe, I’m calling
Without these wings I’m falling
They tell me you’re the queen of disgusting

He takes a stool beside me and he says his name is Mike
And he tells me he’s a veteran from the war
He tells me he’s just looking for a place to watch the game
And he’s never seen a bar like this before

We try to watch the game
But it’s just too damn lame
The band agrees to yield
There’s blood all over Soldier’s Field

Don’t Care Where

Written at the height of Devastationalmania. Even so, love might save the day.

Don’t Care Where

I always said you send me, and I don’t care where
Sometimes I wonder how you move me at all
But, Gretchen, you erased, or rather, laid to waste
A million things that afternoon we walked around the mall

And I’m well aware it only takes a thimble-full of human aspiration
To generate a raging flood of wind and rain and total devastation

So when it’s all blown away
When you’re whispering to me in the rain
Anything you say to me, I’ll believe
Right or wrong, I don’t care
You know I would follow you anywhere
Anywhere you say to be, I will be

I always said you send me, and I don’t care where
Sometimes I wonder how you move me at all
But, Gretchen, you replaced, or rather, laid to waste
A million things that afternoon we walked around the mall

Champagne Instead of Food

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Is it weird to post your own song and say you really like it? I don’t even mean it’s good. I just mean I wouldn’t change anything — it’s true to itself. I knew it was going to work when the line “Honey, it’s never gonna go away” appeared out of nowhere — that combination of genuine aching sympathy and brutal, bitter fatalism. The song of mine that comes perhaps closest to capturing the Devastionalist spirit — without going over, that is.

Champagne Instead of Food

She staggered to the table with a pen behind her ear
And brushed away a lock of dyed-blonde hair
She smiled then mumbled something that I couldn’t understand
She had to prop herself against a chair

Honey, it’s never gonna go away
I understand exactly how you feel
I don’t wanna be rude, but please
Could I have champagne instead of food

She made her way behind the bar, just stood there for awhile
Reached up to get a bottle from the shelf
She filled a bucket full of ice and chilled the Veuve Clicquot
Then poured and downed a highball for herself

She twisted off the wire and the cork flew through the air
And someone at the bar began to clap
I never got to thank her, and I never caught her name
She passed out drooling sweetly in my lap