You may dismiss Vicious Kitty in an offhanded way. It may be their name that bothers you. The title and premise of their new single “Mrs. Claus” may strike you as a bit of a joke. You may peruse the members’ names and chuckle. Some may even scan their individual histories and peg them as hacks, flogging their wares along the margins of a music world that rightly disdains their viability. These sorts of attitudes may even lead you to toss the new single aside, unwilling to even give it a chance.
It’s a mistake if you do.
Yes, it’s not your typical song and sports far from everyday subject matter. That’s a reason for celebration. Vicious Kitty’s “Mrs. Claus” takes an actually obscure character in Christmas lore and makes something new from what we know. The Mrs. Claus in their lyrics is far from the kindly white-haired lady taking care of jolly old St. Nick and contending with unruly reindeer. Instead, she’s a much more complex figure in the band’s vision, made so by unexpected forces exerting a hold over her, and I hear a band who are having fun with the moment and its potential.
Matching it up with a pulverizing hard rock arrangement is a perfect capper for the performance. The three piece are obviously on the same page and, in particular, the rhythm section attack provides an ideal ballast for the number. The accompanying guitar work soars, streaks, and fires one salvo after another over the top of that aforementioned bass/drum core without ever sounding as if the band is superimposing one component over the other.
It’s the result of extensive experience rather than blind chance. Matt Tantrum, Tony Terlicker, and Jimmy St. Bitchin have known and played with one another, in various bands and permutations, for many years and the interplay they share reflects this. Reflecting this in a studio setting is all the more impressive. Their capacity for self-editing is another strength. You’ll be hard-pressed to identify a single extraneous note during the course of this song.
Production strengths bring a further visceral quality to their performance as well. “Mrs. Claus” has a raw-hewn intimacy that leaps out and grabs you without ever risking overwhelming listeners. I especially enjoy how the singing and music pair in such an aggressive way without ever sounding abrasive. Not every band can pull that off.
It’s the end product of veteran gifts. The three musicians involved in the recording of this song have perfected their craft not over years, but decades instead, and the way they approach the track balances respect for the art of making music with not taking themselves too seriously. It’s another thing that not every band can execute.
Yes, it’s unusual. We need more unusual. Yes, it isn’t for everyone, perhaps, but you’d be surprised. I was. I went into this track expecting an out-and-out laughter but, in the end, I wasn’t really laughing. I was smiling. I still am, and I expect that you will be as well.