Ohio composer/guitarist Chris Butler invented the Waitresses; fellow Akronite Patty Donahue gave the group/idea its voice. From a germinal joke (before Butler’s spell in the more avant-garde Tin Huey) and an appearance on a local Ohio compilation LP (Bowling Balls from Hell), the Waitresses grew into a well-known New York-based sextet (including ex-Television drummer Billy Ficca) churning out danceably funky pop tunes spiked with a few twists (not the least of which is Mars Williams’ searing and satirical sax). Furthermore, Donahue’s persona — she doesn’t sing so much as carry a simultaneous conversation and tune — developed into the archetypal young, white, middle-class woman trying to sort out her identity while beset with standard societal conditioning on one hand and specious, voguish “alternatives” (the Sexual Revolution, the Me Generation) on the other. The Waitresses’ combination of musical aplomb and lyrical acuity makes the first LP (which contains the memorable “I Know What Boys Like”) at once funny, sad and universally true.
The American I Could Rule the World EP contains a TV sitcom theme (“Square Pegs”), a wonderful Yuletide rap track (“Christmas Wrapping”), a live-for-TV take of an old Hueys-era Butler tune and more. The related English release, Make the Weather, is somewhat different, most notably lacking “Christmas Wrapping.”
Bruiseology was recorded amidst serious personnel tension. (Donahue subsequently quit, was briefly replaced by Holly Vincent, but later rejoined.) Although Butler penned another batch of witty and wise songs about the exigencies of modern womanhood — perhaps less pointed, but not far removed from those on the first LP — and the playing and production are fine, the formula doesn’t wear all that well.
Patty Donahue died of cancer in late 1996.