Author Topic: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)  (Read 6261 times)

Knocked Out Loaded

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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2020, 12:00:51 PM »
Elvis and his Attractions were in any case much more musically versatile than the typical punk band was. The new wave label I think came into use when the British groups tried to break in the U.S. in 1978 or so. In NYC there already existed a punk rock movement around CBGB’s and Max’s prior to the one that emerged in England. The British groups got much inspiration from the New York scene. A band like The Ramones was a huge influence.
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Eric/E.T.

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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #11 on: May 05, 2020, 02:15:12 AM »
Costello #2: This Year's Model (1978)

Been perusing various greatest new wave album of all time lists, trying to get a handle on where Costello's work falls within that canon, and This Year's Model and My Aim Is True alternate between being his #1 or #2 album on those lists. I find that interesting, because I think This Year's Model has more going for it conceptually, lyrically, and is a lot more cohesive musically. That is not a knock on the debut, please put your pitchforks down, only that I think This Year's Model is brilliant, and this time around, it's clicking with me big time. If we're talking about Costello and a punk ethic, it's clear here through the counter-cultural and feminist themes; the used and thrown away It-girl of "This Year's Model", the has-been prostitute of "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea", the anti-status quo love of "You Belong To Me". I've previously listened to a lot more punk and guitar-driven post-punk than new wave in the past, so you know I appreciate the guitar riff and sweet bassline of "Chelsea", but I also believe the keyboards are better-employed in this album than the previous, well-exhibited in "The Beat", working in tandem with the guitar to drive a strong power pop arrangement. "Night Rally" was the first individual track I saved on Tidal the first time I heard the album, and it's definitely got a place on my Favorite Closing Tracks of All Time. Is it about fascism and hate groups, about love, about both at the same time? Whatever it is, consider it a great lead into the third album, and my favorite coming into this Costello month: Armed Forces, which had a working title of Emotional Fascism.

To comment on what genre Costello's first 4-5 albums fit into, it's not that this is punk in the way The Ramones were punk. It's an extension of the punk ethic into evolutionary forms such as new wave, where it seems like Costello's early work was highly influential. I think eclecticism defines his career as much as any single genre or sub-genre, but the punk ethic definitely pervades his early work. If you trace the styles The Clash worked through in their first decade, you can see why Costello looked to their music to inform his own, as their albums moved toward the eclectic a few years after their initial breakthrough.

Barnes and Noble has Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink waiting for me to pick up at the closest location to me here, so I'm going to grab that tomorrow.

Costello #3: Armed Forces (1979)

Oh, I just don't know where to begin! Goodness, how many times I've thought that before writing/speaking. Costello is really going through it, too, because Armed Forces is a sonically ambitious, lyrically intense 40-minute ride. That, of course, justifies the wonderful cover of producer Nick Lowe's (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding, where, after taking aim at fascism, socio-political and emotional, he gets the chance to let loose an earnest peacenik anthem of which we can all sing-along and feel.

The opener Accidents Will Happen musically brings to prominence a sound we do not hear often in his previous two works: the piano. I see the effect of the piano bringing a slightly more organic and emotionally resonant element, but it by no means slows down the show. Most prominently, it adds weight and depth to Oliver's Army, a nearly-perfectly written decimation of English imperialism. Elsewhere, Costello puts Nazis (and possibly Irish fascists, if Genius is to be believed) on blast, and uses mild innuendo to create a bit of double-meaning - which is particularly prominent on this album - especially with the parting line "You can please yourself but somebody's gonna get it." Chemistry Class ups the level of double-meanings and interpretation, again conflating seduction of a sexual nature with the draw of fascism to certain deranged fanatical personalities, especially with the witty and wonderful chorus: "You've got a chemistry class; I want a piece of your mind / You don't know what you started when you mixed it up with me / Are you ready for the final solution?" Two Little Hitlers might seem a little - OK, a ton - more obvious, but it's got a wry little chorus that justifies it.

Went into this one thinking it was the best of Costello's early output, but This Year's Model might be my favorite of the first three. As I've said before, you do have to live with them a little bit more to develop clear opinions, and ratings, if you're so inclined, but that's my immediate thought. Both are excellent.

To note, the dude does use the n-word in Oliver's Army, when speaking on the capricious and careless use of men in uniform fighting wars for the wealthy ruling class: "One more widow, one less white [n-word]." He's using it ironically to make a point, so intent is not the issue, but intent is not everything. No need to drag out a lecture, the problem is obvious. Conflate that with the ugliest part of his career, which occurs around this time of his career, when he goes on a drunken tirade at a bar that leads to him using the n-word when speaking on Ray Charles and James Brown. He's gone on to apologize repeatedly for this incident, and, considering his long track record of being a proponent of peace and social justice, as well as recording music written by African Americans and even recording an album with pro-black hip-hop group The Roots, I don't think you just bury the guy. I simply think it's important to discuss, a gaffe and a half we can learn from, coming from an otherwise decent guy.

Next, it's Get Happy!!, a soul & R&B influenced album, which has been interpreted as an attempt by Costello to atone for his mistakes highlighted above, but he has denied such interpretation. Either way, it's a new musical direction, one of many he will engage in during his career.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2020, 12:14:00 AM by etdoesgood »
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St. Martin the Bald

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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #12 on: May 05, 2020, 02:59:56 PM »
You skipped This Years Model - his number 2 album.
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MartinTeller

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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #13 on: May 05, 2020, 03:18:06 PM »
You skipped This Years Model - his number 2 album.

He didn't, though... it was here earlier? I think he edited his post instead of making a new one.

Eric/E.T.

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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #14 on: May 05, 2020, 03:54:24 PM »
You skipped This Years Model - his number 2 album.

He didn't, though... it was here earlier? I think he edited his post instead of making a new one.

Hoooolllllyyyyy...lol. I always go back to old posts to copy and paste the formatting for my headers, and yes indeed, I totally wrote over my This Year's Model entry. And didn't change the header and image (until now). I was happy with that entry, too. Ah well, shall rectify later today/tonight. I blame sleep deprivation and general absentmindedness.
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Eric/E.T.

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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #15 on: May 05, 2020, 05:50:56 PM »
I just updated the screwed up post to contain both This Year's Girl and Armed Forces. Wanted to maintain the chronological order. Thanks for catching that.

Another update: Knocked Out Loaded still had my original This Year's Girl post opened, and sent me the text. I used that instead, it's better, imo. THANK YOU!
« Last Edit: May 05, 2020, 05:53:06 PM by etdoesgood »
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St. Martin the Bald

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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #16 on: May 05, 2020, 06:35:43 PM »
As side note, I’m pretty sure his use of “white n-word” was a reference to a derogatory term used for the Irish at one time. I learned this from the film The Commitments btw.
This can be such a minefield to wade through but in this case there is historical data to back this up. It doesn’t make its appearance any less shocking but, knowing where it comes from, it’s context in the theme of the song (British Imperialism) and the fact that he’s not referring to POC but to the shitty way the Irish were treated, I’m ok with this.
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Eric/E.T.

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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #17 on: May 05, 2020, 08:05:09 PM »
As side note, I’m pretty sure his use of “white n-word” was a reference to a derogatory term used for the Irish at one time. I learned this from the film The Commitments btw.
This can be such a minefield to wade through but in this case there is historical data to back this up. It doesn’t make its appearance any less shocking but, knowing where it comes from, it’s context in the theme of the song (British Imperialism) and the fact that he’s not referring to POC but to the shitty way the Irish were treated, I’m ok with this.

I read that, probably could've incorporated it in my paragraph but I'm glad you noted it here. I actually did a Google search on "Costello white [n-word]" and that's how I found out about the Ray Charles/James Brown issue, too. There is certainly context that has to be considered in the use of the word, and like I said, I think the intention was decent, but it's still not something that should come off of a white artist's tongue no matter what. There has to be another way to express the sentiment that the government was throwing away soldiers' lives for nothing. I don't want to go too far in splitting hairs on this, though, because in the end, the bar incident is really the thing that has stained his legacy, though he's fully acknowledged his sins and done his penance for it. That's far better than most artists do.
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St. Martin the Bald

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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #18 on: May 05, 2020, 08:27:40 PM »
Apparently he was forced to discuss even more when he worked with The Roots. Reading about that incident and understanding the context, it’s never ok but when when emotions are high, it can be easy to reach for the low hanging fruit especially during that time when it wasn’t nearly as taboo.
Like you said, he has acknowledged it, apologized and his subsequent actions have proven him an ally rather than a true racist.
We have all done stupid shit.
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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #19 on: May 05, 2020, 08:41:57 PM »
I am pretty much a casual fan of his so I never heard that story or really know anything about him.  I only have the King of America CD which I know pretty well and the one he recorded with the Roots, which haven't actually listened.  I will play over Tidal some of his albums over the next few days as I have the time.
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