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Maraschino covers Cristina's "Things Fall Apart"





Maraschino covers Cristina's "Things Fall Apart"

Maraschino, aka Piper Durabo, is a Los Angeles-based performing artist, songwriter, guitarist, producer, and radio DJ. So why cover her on the Deli NYC blog? Two reasons: First, having come across her music thanks to the gloriously askew “Synthmus” holiday special recently alluded to in this space, it turns out that Durabo started the Maraschino project while residing in the city in 2018 and had her live debut at a Red Bull Music Academy show in Coney Island; and second, because her featured performance on said holiday special, for which she also served as co-host, was a cover of Cristina’s “Things Fall Apart,” a song that’s New York City to the core.

Cristina, full name Cristina Monet Zilkha (1956-2020), was a massively influential but still largely unheralded New York City native whose handful of singles and two albums--released on ZE Records between 1978 and 1984--established a template for ‘80s downtown cool in terms of music and fashion and overall attitude that helped shape not only the early careers of mainstream artists like Cyndi Lauper and Madonna, but also countless others in subsequent years/decades who fused elements of pop, disco, punk, new wave, and avant-gardism as a sort of “Brechtian pastiche” in Cristina’s own words. Ms. Monet Zilkha sadly passed away on March 31, 2020 after suffering for years from autoimmune disorders and then contracting COVID early in its reign of horror. Obituaries can be found here and here.

The similarly single-monikered Maraschino is by all appearances a 21st-century inheritor to Cristina’s legacy. From her output with the Teen Vogue touted sister-act Puro Instinct, who were once described as “Stevie Nicks through a lens of chiffon and horse tranquilizers” (Isn't Stevie Nicks usually already wearing chiffon? Oh well, nevermind!) to her several singles released under the new cherrubic rubric, Ms. Durabo is clearly an apprentice of Christina’s outsider pop art, or as she herself puts it “mystic disco-pop for introverts.” Along these lines Maraschino’s debut single “True Lover” (2019) must have had Martin Gore clutching his leather chaps in jealousy with its earworm fusion of boppy major-key synths and sadomasochistic subtext--a dynamic that's effectively captured in the music video which itself matches the Mode for overall icy hotness.

Also not unlike Cristina, who recorded a clutch of memorable covers ranging from Prince’s “When U Were Mine” to the Beatles’ “Drive My Car” to Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?” (the latter of which being one the greatest cover versions ever recorded in the history of humankind in the mind of this humble writer), Maraschino has likewise taken a shine to the art of the musical homage. To wit, this year she's put out covers of both the Carly Simon/Chic collab “Why” as well as the aforementioned “Things Fall Apart.”

While technically a Christmas song, “Things Fall Apart” is one of those rare instances of a seasonal song that transcends its trappings--a tale of struggle and perseverance in the midst of poverty, perversion, romantic betrayal, tree murder, and motherly love. To her credit Maraschino pulls off a beautifully streamlined synthpop version of the song, capturing the melancholic yet oddly hopeful mood of the original (see the top of this page for the video) and Cristina’s finely-honed deadpan yet fully engaged vocal delivery:

The party was a huge success
"But where should we go next?" they said
They killed a tree of 97 years
And smothered it in lights and silver tears
They all got wrecked
They laughed too loud
I started to feel queasy in the crowd
I caught a cab back to my flat
And wept a bit
And fed the cat

Most widely known from its inclusion on Cristina’s swan song Sleep It Off (1984), “Things Fall Apart” was first released on ZE Records’ 1981 LP A Christmas Record which also introduced the world to the Waitresses’ now perennial “Christmas Wrapping” (by far the most quasi-cheery song on the album). The Xmas comp didn’t shy away from the avant-pop experimentalism and No Wave severity that were ZE's stock in trade (home to releases by James Chance and the Contortions, Suicide, Was (Not Was), and Lydia Lunch/Teenage Jesus and the Jerks among others) and has been called “the first alternative Christmas album” and “the darkest Christmas record of all time." So now you know where to go for one last dose of holiday weirdness this year. And should you go there (trivia alert!) you'll also learn where Madonna found inspiration for the hook on her first hit single. (Jason Lee)

 

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