The Bad Wife – Julie Christmas

Julie Christmas came to me by way of recommendation a few years ago. I’d been going through a big ISIS phase, which led to a big Old Man Gloom/Zozobra/Neurosis/Swans phase. Finally, I ran out of stuff to listen to, and to be frank, while I gazed at my shoes, sweated, fainted and threw up at metal gigs, it was the longest break I’d taken from listening to female-fronted music in a long time. While I dreamt of Valhalla, my riot grrl CDs collected dust, Tori Amos froze her own face and Courtney Love went from being a music industry martyr to nails-on-a-blackboard grating.

In a mass music dump one night, a very dismissive house-guest told me that of everything he had, probably all I might like would be Battle of Mice and Made Out of Babies, both fronted by Christmas. I was eager, upon hearing Battle of Mice had done a split with Jesu [and not to be petty, but dismissive house-guest? You were pronouncing Jesu incorrectly the whole time and I was too polite to say anything. Ha!], so I took all he had.

Battle of Mice were practically gagging to be loved, Josh Graham had been part of Neurosis and Red Sparowes, Joe Tomino from Dub Tio and Peeping Tom. And then there was Christmas.

Her voice makes me think of American Gothic, of cemeteries, of the first couple of Halloween movies. A bit like, say, Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney, Christmas’s voice is an acquired taste, but once you get there, the reward is great.

‘Sleep and Dream’ from their album A Day of Nights became my go-to Julie Christmas track, it’s sublime:

Late last year I thought I’d check in on my favourite Care Bears nighty wearing metal goddess and was super excited to hear she had a solo album coming out in November, which I promptly purchased on old fashioned CD.

A big reason I still buy CDs is that I’m a sucker for packaging and graphic design, and I knew Christmas has links to Seldon Hunt, whose graphic work for musicians like Kid606, Pelican, Melvins and ISIS, I’ve been a big fan of for a number of years [he also designs everything from drum heads, to skateboard decks to fabric deign for Helmut Lang].  

The album, or at least the version I have, is a standard jewel case, which means a fairly typical layout to work with design-wise, but I really love the CD itself and the matching insert under the disc tray:

The Bad Wifereminds me a little of Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley’s Evelyn Evelyn project. Both have vaudeville elements, music that would be played at some fucked up nighttime carnival, where everyone has gold teeth, and you’ll be lucky to leave with all of yours. That’s not to say Christmas has turned folk, musically The Bad Wife isn’t a huge departure from her other projects.

Her cover of ‘If You Go Away’ [one of many English versions of Jacques Brel’s ‘Ne me quitte pas’] sounds like she’s standing atop a table, stein of beer swinging from one arm, singing threats to soon to be departing lover:

Julie Christmas’s Bad Wife is the mentally unstable and infinitely more dangerous younger sister of Kat Bjelland’s Katastrophy Wife, the girl you don’t want to even ponder coming across in a dark alley: