The Waitresses

Just Desserts: The Complete Waitresses

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To the masses, Akron-based new wave group the Waitresses were always a weird duck since they were a one-hit wonder (the snarky, funky, and deadpan "I Know What Boys Like") with the caveat of a Christmas hit, one that was equally novelty and heartwarming ("Christmas Wrapping"). They were equally perplexing for the era's music nerds, bringing together all those '80s Ohio elements in their music (the elevated kitsch commentary of Devo, the future blues-rock sound of the legendary Numbers Band, and some actual members of Tin Huey), but crafting it all in such a way that was classic album rock & roll, where dramatic horn arrangements and tension-building song structures were crafts worth exploring. The band's career arc involves a smart, fresh, and danceable blow against the empire (the 1982 album Wasn't Tomorrow Wonderful?, with "Boys Like" included), one EP's worth of basking in the glory (that same year's I Could Rule the World If I Could Only Get the Parts, featuring the theme from the '80s sitcom Square Pegs), plus a well-crafted album filled with angst and grown-up problems that stiffed and forced a band breakup (1983's Bruiseology). All of it is included on this welcome set from Omnivore, from the infectious girl-meets-mundane-world kickoff called "No Guilt" ("The 31st is when I pay the phone bill/I told 'em I don't even know anyone in Toronto!") to Bruiseology's wailing and rocking title cut (a prophetic number with "And then you hit me with the hard facts/Then everything cracks and it's Bruiseology" seeming precog). Along the way the collection delivers B-52's-ish fun and B-52's-ish cool party numbers ("Heat Night," "Everything's Wrong If My Hair Is Wrong"), snide commentary over new wave beats ("A Girl's Gotta Do," "Quit"), plus some moments that are smart pop, pure and simple ("Bread and Butter," "Make the Weather"). Bandleader and lead songwriter Chris Butler provides the band's story in the booklet, including the sad fact that singer Patty Donahue passed away in 1996 due to lung cancer.

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