Author Topic: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)  (Read 6263 times)

MartinTeller

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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #20 on: May 05, 2020, 10:15:57 PM »
Also, "Sunday's Best" has the line "Blame it all upon the darkies"... it's one of my least favorite songs by him anyway, that bit just makes it more cringey. Obviously it's meant to be "in character" but it's kind of jarring anyway.

St. Martin the Bald

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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #21 on: May 06, 2020, 12:09:18 AM »
Agreed.
It’s super cringey and embarrassing to think of all the things that weren’t considered off limits or over the line from back then. It’s actually like a cultural time capsule.
Hey, nice marmot!

Eric/E.T.

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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #22 on: May 06, 2020, 07:47:37 PM »
Costello #4: Get Happy!! (1980)

This is supposed to be the R&B-inspired album that brought the first shift of many in Costello's musical style, but there are many musical styles being interpreted and utilized here. From the outset, Love for Tender has an early Stevie filtered through the new wave type of vibe, same explosive energy emanating from the keys, drums, and bass, but with a slightly different vocal style and funk-soul influence in the vocal harmonies. The Imposter feels like it could've succeeded on the first couple Costello albums, a critique on masculinity and guys who just let you down, with a straight-forward new wave sound. It's my favorite song on the album, but this is an album jam packed with 20 tracks that could be your favorite at any moment. Looking for more signs of a musical shift toward R&B and soul, you will mostly hear it in the funky-ass basslines, tempo changes, and harmonies. Secondary Modern features such bass part, and a Costello with a significantly chiller tone, singing the blues. Indeed, as unhinged some of these lyrics still are, they are a bit less conceptually-driven than those of Armed Forces or This Year's Model. Looking at album closer, Riot Act, there's more than a little Bowie in the piano part with hauntingly soulful "aaahhhh"s behind Costello singing, "You can read me the riot act!" on the chorus, perhaps coming from a place of guilty conscience. He had written that during this time of his career, things were really becoming unhinged and difficult, so this might go well beyond his 1979 troubles. Either way, this is another energetic, blood-pumping effort from Costello and the Attractions that is known for first exhibiting how much of a musical chameleon he'd be, but I think you're still primarily hearing his new wave hustle filtered through a few new influences/styles.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2020, 12:14:18 AM by etdoesgood »
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Eric/E.T.

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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #23 on: May 07, 2020, 11:55:10 PM »
Costello #5: Trust (1981)

I was a little worried there'd be a little decline here, considering the bizarre opener, Clubland, where Costello sports a strange Caribbean, maybe even Sting-esque cadence on the verse. The back-to-back choruses get back to his pop/new wave sensibilities that at least salvage this one. The balance changes the Costello and the Attractions formula to various degrees, Love's Walk featuring another unique rhythm to the verse and another piece of poetry, heavy in repetition, that works with a signature propulsive bassline and slick little piano part helping to drive the vehicle on less-maximalist but distinctly Costello perpetual music machine. This is the most piano-heavy record, even going so far as the musically simple, lyrically delicious man-and-piano Shot with His Own Gun. Love this:

The little corporal got in the way
And he got hit by an emotional ricochet
It's a bit more now than dressing up dolly
Playing house seems so melancholy


Note that we're still in the realm of emotional fascism and military references. It's less frequent here, but Strict Time and You'll Never Be a Man will be thematically familiar for those into Armed Forces and This Year's Model, even if they're all about piano than the keyboard and guitar of previous releases. The closing track opens with a woozy, dissonant bit of sound before Costello brings us some of the most soulful singing to a 2-minute, cryptic little tune that could be in reference to some of his high-profile problems, or perhaps issues behind the scenes, as he's admitted he was hitting bottom around Get Happy!! and this was made and came out shortly thereafter. Either way, this marked an interesting shift in sound toward piano and maybe a few less beats per minute that still greatly satisfies and lends itself to repeated listens. Might be a grower, but certainly didn't take me too long to vibe with it.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2020, 12:14:31 AM by etdoesgood »
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Eric/E.T.

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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #24 on: May 08, 2020, 01:31:11 AM »
Costello #6: Almost Blue (1981)

This album of country covers original came with the following on the cover: WARNING: This album contains country & western music and may cause offence to narrow minded listeners.

Well, I wasn't too narrow-minded to dig Altman's 1975 masterpiece, Nashville, so an '81 album of Costello (and the Attractions!) country covers wasn't all so shocking, either. That is especially if you consider he came up in a big band setting where his father played for many years in a huge, if maybe a bit old and dilapidated dance hall, occasionally giving it a whirl on the mic himself. This is all not to say that Almost Blue is one the casual fan needs to seek out. As the songs in Nashville (the film) start to blend together a bit, especially at the scene in the Grand Ole Opry, so do some of the songs here. That may be indicative of my limited scope of country and western knowledge, but I also think it speaks how limited in range Costell's selections are, or possibly in their presentation (only heard two of the originals so far). The album kicks off with a massively energetic cover of Hank William's Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used to Do)?, cutting a good 40 seconds off the original in the process, but then shifts to a more mid-tempo production, where the songs begin to blend together a bit. Yes, it's called Almost Blue, but Costello to this point had worked high energy and emotionally draining lyrics quite well, and here there are only a few times he allows himself and the band to cut loose, most notably Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down and stand-out Honey Hush. Should also be noted that Joe Turner's original of Honey Hush is a bit more dynamic than Costello's, much more danceable, with a badass saxophone solo. Cover's still good, though. Actually, just listening to the Williams and Turner covers here has me interested to explore the originals a bit, so maybe this did serve a purpose. Either way, I'm already onto Imperial Bedroom, and I quite like what I'm hearing thus far.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2020, 12:14:43 AM by etdoesgood »
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Eric/E.T.

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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #25 on: May 08, 2020, 08:16:33 PM »
Costello #7: Imperial Bedroom (1982)

Thus far into my cup of coffee with Costello, this may be the first true grower that, even in just the past 24 hours, has gotten better and better. I think the absolutely superb opener, Beyond Belief, taking us into art-pop/art-rock territory, may promise a bit more adventure than we get, but what we get in this post-Nick Lowe world is maybe the most sonically forward-thinking work in the Costello catalog thus far. Shabby Doll is case-in-point, opening in a sea of reverb, before Costello's signature power-pop style hits along with a sea of wordplay on a femme fatale you never saw coming. Man Out of Time comes screaming in, only to fall into an eminently singable piano-driven pop tune with lushly layered vocals, one of the works where you can totally see what Geoff Emerick might have learned from George Martin when he got to work with him on some of The Beatles' material. The single You Little Fool seems comprehensible enough, a power pop ditty that comes within sonic proximity, including vocal styling, to another British band soon to come up, The Smiths. But then, this one takes a left turn again toward art-pop and the bizarre about halfway through, right along with the lyrics: "They say no news is good news / The little girl wants information / Mother just gives her some pills to choose / And says go use your imagination." With that, the quirky use of reverberation and distortion in the production serve a meaningful purpose in addition to sound CINECAST!ing cool. I love what Nick Lowe did with Costello's sound in Costello 1-5, but I also love what Emerick does here, and I think it was a needed refresher to his sound as well as a catalyst to artistic growth. I have much more living to do with these albums, but this may be my go-to right now along with This Year's Model.

I should say, I don't think I would've liked Elvis Costello much prior to this period in my life. I was so much more into punk, post-punk and art-rock/pop from a comparable time period. The Clash and The Smiths might be the closest I'd gotten to him, and I've never listened to The Clash all that closely, either. Actually, they could be next to get such a treatment, although they only have six studio albums compared to Costello's 30 (and counting?). Anyway, all this is to say this half-marathon came at just the right time.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2020, 12:14:57 AM by etdoesgood »
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jdc

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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #26 on: May 08, 2020, 08:48:30 PM »
This has been fun to follow and gotten me to listen to a few more of his albums over the last week. Do we get to suggest who you do next?
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Eric/E.T.

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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #27 on: May 09, 2020, 12:08:39 PM »
This has been fun to follow and gotten me to listen to a few more of his albums over the last week. Do we get to suggest who you do next?

Glad you've enjoyed! While I make no guarantees, suggestions are always welcome, as I definitely enjoy having my attentions directed in places I would not necessarily direct them on my own.
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Eric/E.T.

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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #28 on: May 09, 2020, 03:07:55 PM »
Costello #8: Punch the Clock (1983)

This is the first Costello where I'm solidly mixed and a little let down, though maintaining the excellence of 6 of the first 7 albums (Almost Blue is good for what it is, still) would be quite a feat. I don't feel Clive Langer's clean production fits an imagination and ambition as vast as Costello, although his lyrics in Punch the Clock are not as high-concept as even the previous year's Imperial Bedroom. I was fairly surprised to learn that Everyday I Write the Book was his first Top 40 hit in the U.S.A. I dig the piano, and the production is as ambitious as anywhere on the album, but the vocal styling and backing vocals are airy and maybe even a bit corny. Were this my Costello introduction, it would've taken extra coaxing to get me to consider him more deeply. Shipbuilding is a low-tempo with sleepy drums and a slow-moving piano with a jazzy trumpet soon to enter. Costello delivers potent storybook lyrics, and overall this shows us the possibility for a lower-energy, headphone-friendly Costello experience. The introduction of horns to the production throughout Punch the Clock is uneven to say the least. They are often extraordinarily bright, such as on TKO, and often off-putting in this regard. They add to the general weightlessness of a lot of this record. I'd say Pills & Soap is the biggest highlight here, with references to the Biblical story of Noah and commentary on the aristocracy, over easily the most interesting bit of production with only a muted handclap for any consistent percussion and Costello's voice at its most commanding and magnetic. The piano drives this instrumentally, with the keyboard synthesizer providing contrast as Elvis sings some of his most potent lines, "The sugar coated pill is getting bitterer still / You think your country needs you but you know it never will." That's the Costello I know and love. The closer, The World and his wife, even shows a way forward with the production, getting back to some of the energy of his early-career classics, and exemplifying how the bright brass can work within his new wave vision. Even though this is an uneven effort, there are certainly still tunes worth revisiting. It just doesn't always play to Costello's strengths, being just a little too clean, a little too bright, a little too sanitized.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2020, 12:15:10 AM by etdoesgood »
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jdc

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Re: ET & Elvis Costello Have a Cup of Coffee (or Two)
« Reply #29 on: May 09, 2020, 09:00:09 PM »
This has been fun to follow and gotten me to listen to a few more of his albums over the last week. Do we get to suggest who you do next?

Glad you've enjoyed! While I make no guarantees, suggestions are always welcome, as I definitely enjoy having my attentions directed in places I would not necessarily direct them on my own.

I’d throw out Joe Jackson, he has gone through some different styles over the years but maybe at similar routes starting out
"Beer. Now there's a temporary solution."  Homer S.
“The direct use of physical force is so poor a solution to the problem of limited resources that it is commonly employed only by small children and great nations” - David Friedman