I didn’t know what to expect going into Vicious Kitty’s “Mrs. Claus”. Hard rock and metal bands take intermittent stabs at crafting Christmas-themed songs and the often incongruous results are sometimes at odds with the general gentleness surrounding the season. Kitty’s three members including Matt Tantrum, Jimmy St. Bitchin, and Tony Terlicker are veteran musicians who, however, possess the necessary flexibility to stretch their respective and collective talents in directions that other groups aren’t able to match. “Mrs. Claus” isn’t a novelty or gimmick tune but, instead, an unique expression of Vicious Kitty’s gifts that grows on you with each new play.
Any doubts about the song’s validity vanish once the band kicks into gear. Tantrum and his cohorts put down a bulldozer groove that has immense physicality while remaining musical all the while. The production does an outstanding job of framing both the band’s musical performance and the vocal without ever giving preference to one component over the other and the visceral connection that Jimmy St. Bitchin’s drumming establishes with listeners supplies “Mrs. Claus” with a solid foundation that forms the song’s essential building block.
The guitar work, however, is far from second place. It is pyrotechnic without ever sounding ostentatious; Vicious Kitty has worked at their craft far too long to fall prey to masturbatory nonsense. Despite the high voltage arrangement, there isn’t a single part that doesn’t serve the overall whole. I applaud how well they incorporate the freewheeling vocal with the instrumentation without ever giving preference to one over the other.
There’s a throaty yowl in the vocals that helps convey the story. This isn’t a straight, inert narrative powering the cut, but rather an impressionistic story conveyed in brief lines laced with the same percussive power that St. Bitchin’s drumming offers. The song’s nominal “chorus” underlines the essential thrust of the story without taking listeners out of the moment, a fact that I believe further testifies to their skill.
The instrumental portion of the track, embodied by short but potent soloing during the song’s second half, is another example of how Vicious Kitty tailors individual sections of the arrangement to serve a larger purpose beyond showing off. It further underscores the rollicking and unpredictable nature of the band’s storytelling. Remove one piece from this musical puzzle and the composition collapses in on itself. It isn’t an especially lengthy performance either, as well, and its well-tailored length further adds to the track’s impact.
Vicious Kitty has labored many years to reach this point. The thing that impresses me the most, however, is the obvious fun that they continue to have. These are undoubted “lifers”, musical artists with a strong sense of the dramatic who know how to fuse that with their musical instincts with memorable results. “Mrs. Claus” does things and goes places that few Christmas-focused songs ever do and, if there’s no other reason, listeners should welcome it into their lives and hearts based on that fact alone. It’s well worth every second of the ride.