|11-16-2008, 05:27 PM
Join Date: Sep 2008
Now, time to soldier on with this thing again...
1981, F-Beat Records, DJM Studios/Eden Studios
After the frenzied genre experiment of Get Happy!! Elvis Costello, the Attractions and producer Nick Lowe made a speedy return to the studio to follow it up. These sessions saw the result of Costello's increasingly ambitious songwriting hit the first of a fair few peaks to come, culminating in his most stylistically diverse record yet and arguably his most impressive with the Attractions as his backing band. We see the Attractions show their mettle yet again as one of the finest backing bands in the business and Nick Lowe's production values which do so much to show this. Anyway, here goes...
With its jazzy flourishes and almost virtuoso drumbeat, the opening title here sounds like nothing Costello had recorded before and is early evidence that we're going to be treated to an artistic step forward of an album. Not only that, but the line 'the long arm of the law slides up the outskirts of town' is just genius 9/10
2. Lover's Walk
Led again by an almost jazzy piano line and furious drumbeat, Lover's Walk instead goes for an old-styled rock 'n' roll sound which lands it quite some distance from Clubland. One of the less intriguing songs around, but not bad at all. 6/10
3. You'll Never Be a Man
Written in the same vein as the two tracks before it, we're presented with a slightly slower tune which kind of rolls along on the back of Steve Nieve's inspired keyboard-bashing, building up to a fabulously memorable refrain before it fades out. The lyrics (as any keen ears will find with most of the rest of this album) are as disenchanted, brutal and suggestive as Costello's had been as well ('though the fist is mightier than the lip, it adds the adoration'). Brilliant song, simple as that. 10/10
4. Pretty Words
Edging along via a very prominent Bruce Thomas bassline, Nieve's well-chosen piano chords and a killer chorus, this song (inspired by Costello's brush with the world press - because of how he, in a moment of drunken stupidity, called James Brown and Ray Charles a name that rhymes with digger) is another example of wonderful songcraft and performance at play. 9/10
5. Strict Time
One thing I love about this album is how Costello's guitar is either not used at all or pushed so low down in the mix that you can hardly notice it, giving the Attractions and producer Nick Lowe their opportunities to shine. This song is no exception to that rule. An almost reggae-inspired riff is only played by Costello for the opening 10-odd seconds, from where drummer Pete Thomas' wild, repetitive beat almost pushes the song up to an upper echelon of quality. 9/10
A-rockin' and a-rollin' to a Bo Diddley beat, the furious tempo of this particular item practically jumps out of the speakers at you. A decent enough tune, but another one of the weaker moments here. 6/10
7. Watch Your Step
And there's a massive juxtaposition between that and the laid back serenity of the bass-led Watch Your Step. This full studio workout for a song first recorded during the Get Happy!! sessions is a real winner, Nieve's calm and beautifully composed solo being one of my favourite moments in any song. 10/10
8. New Lace Sleeves
What follows is the song which convinced that Costello is more than just some washed-up songwriter with a few hits to his name. Boasting possibly the best drumbeat (in rock music before you say anything) that I've ever heard, as well as a superb ensemble display from the other Attractions and a beautiful, soulful vocal performance from Costello, this gorgeous slow burner is almost as good as music gets. 10/10
9. From a Whisper To a Scream
Again we're taken back a few years through Costello's discography by a tune that rocks as hard as anything from This Year's Model. This punchy, razor-backed and hyped-up song also features guest vocalist Glen Tilbrook of Squeeze as part of the duet. 9/10
10. Different Finger
Another unusual and ambitious moment in this guy's early repertoire, Different Finger is the first country ballad Costello wrote since Stranger In the House was recorded for (and dropped from) My Aim Is True some four years earlier. Don't let the country tag put you off though - this is an unusually emotional and tender moment on the album, which juxtaposes what comes next quite nicely... 8/10
11. White Knuckles
..which, as the title may suggest, is a fast and furious slice of rock which features another brutal and unnerving lyric ('white knuckles on black and blue skin, you didn't mean to hit her but she kept laughing'). Scary lyrics aside though, it's another truly brilliant song which builds to an ingenious and memorable tempo-change as the fade-out approaches. 10/10
12. Shot With His Own Gun
Yet another first for Costello's songwriting, this entirely piano-led and brooding song features a mesmerising display from Nieve and another fine vocal track from Costello (the video shows a live rendition, which is slightly inferior to the studio version in my opinion). Yet another high-point for the album. 10/10
13. Fish 'n' Chip Paper
The penultimate track is much more of an up-tempo, almost jolly and bubbly affair which doesn't sound all that removed from the new-wave-isms of Armed Forces. Good lyrics, good performances all-round (a particularly nice organ solo), but nothing too remarkable. 7/10
14. Big Sister's Clothes
The backwards-recorded accordion sets the tone for more moody, bleak and acoustic guitar-led ending to a bafflingly diverse and eclectic album (so, in fact, does the first lyrical couplet of 'sheep to the slaughter, oh I thought this must be love'). A calm and laid back song puts the lid on this record very nicely indeed. 8/10
Black Sails In the Sunset: The tell-tale sign of an album's quality can often be how good the outtakes from the respective studio sessions are and this slow, piano-led tune is indeed a very fine song.
Big Sister: Big Sister's Clothes is a slowed-down re-working of this furiously-paced rock 'n' roll song, and a very good one at that.
Twenty-Five To Twelve: An above-average rocker here, it's not a bad song by any means. Probably a right move to leave it off the album though.
Sad About Girls: One of the best 'songs that never made it' from Costello's repertoire, this Steve Nieve-penned tune is a sublime piece of piano-led balladry.
Slow Down: Better (certainly a lot faster) than the Beatles' and the Jam's re-readings of Larry Williams' rock 'n' roll classic.
Hoover Factory, Love For Sale, Boy With a Problem, Weeper's Dream, Gloomy Sunday and the Long Honeymoon: All these were (I'd imagine) never really considered as album material, being solo-recorded vocal warm-ups for Costello, rough workings of songs in the making or instrumentals. A lot of them are nice enough on their own though (Gloomy Sunday and Love For Sale are quite something).
So, summing up then...
When I kept yammering on earlier in this thread about how better was to come from Costello, this (in part) is what I meant. A truly brilliant, mind-bogglingly diverse and unique record, it could very well be my favourite Elvis Costello album (tends to change between three or four of them by day though). I don't care how neutral your opinion on this guy is, get this album An absolute essential
Last edited by Bulldog; 11-16-2008 at 06:37 PM.
|11-16-2008, 05:36 PM
Join Date: Sep 2008
|11-20-2008, 02:20 AM
Join Date: Sep 2008
|11-20-2008, 05:20 PM
Join Date: Sep 2008
1981, F-Beat Records, Nashville Tennessee
It always happens at some point doesn't it? Well, maybe not really, but I can think of a fair few examples of a prolific singer/songwriter taking to the studio to record a covers album and naturally Elvis Costello fits nicely into this category. The idea behind Almost Blue, though, represents another artistic departure from his old sound. Basically, having written songs like Stranger In the House, Radio Sweetheart and Different Finger, it doesn't really take much brains to figure out that he was and still is a real lover of country and western music. Taking the Attractions to Nashville Tennessee in order to tape a bunch of C & W standards in a frenzy of recording (a grand total of thirty songs were cut) was as good an indicator of this as any.
The result is an album that's very hard for any non-country fans to truly love, as we're presented with a sincere and faithful covers album.
1. Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used To Do)?
The opening item though is the one exception to this rule, Costello and the Attractions tearing through a sped-up, punkish rendition of the old Hank Williams standard. Yet another Elvis Costello album starts with a real bang. 8/10
2. Sweet Dreams
And there's a sharp contrast between that and the more faithful re-reading of this Don Gibson ballad. There's nothing wrong with the playing, but it's just all a little too schmaltzy for me (complete with a backing choir and some syrupy string arrangements et al). On top of that, it's one of a few examples on this album of the Attractions' performances being far too subdued for the song's good, and it's not exactly one of my favourite Costello cuts for it. 4/10
This, on the other hand, is. A soothing, gently played song about lost love which is guided along by some sublime piano-playing from Steve Nieve (with a wonderful solo t'boot!). A much more uncluttered affair than Sweet Dreams. 9/10
4. I'm Your Toy
One of a couple of Gram Parsons tunes to show up on this album, it's another slow country ballad this time emphasising John McFee's pedal steel guitar. Another not-so-overcooked affair, it's a decent enough tune all-round, though not a patch on the original. 7/10
5. Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down
And what follows is a much faster, footstomping cover of Merle Haggard's song. Nieve again really shines with his performance behind the piano, as does McFee's pedal steel. It's good enough but nothing extraordinary. 7/10
6. Brown To Blue
And here's another one of the more tame tracks on the album. It's a meandering, slightly dull wonder through a George Jones original. 5/10
7. Good Year For the Roses
As Costello's last top 10 hit in the UK, Good Year For the Roses has since become one of his most well-known and best-loved releases and it's entirely justified for me. It ticks all the right boxes where Sweet Dreams before it got them all wrong, and is probably the best song on the album for it. 10/10
8. Sittin' and Thinkin'
Another one of the much better cuts here, this Charlie Rich cover gets by again on some more sublime work from Nieve and McFee, propelling one of the catchier songs around here onward and upward. 9/10
9. The Colour Of the Blues
As the pace of the record slows down again, we're handed some more subdued and un-noteworthy from the Attractions and John McFee as well as Costello himself, and therefore another one of the more mediocre tracks. 5/10
10. Too Far Gone
Again, one of the slower country ballads on the record (boasting Emmylou Harris among its many performers down the years), but in this case we hear a bit of an improvement on others before it. A catchy little pedal steel riff and a memorable chorus make for another decent (yet unspectacular) cut. 6/10
11. Honey Hush
This Lou Willie Taylor song was also covered by some bloke called Paul McCartney. Costello's rendition takes the speed up a few notches before the album reaches its climax, but at the same time features more sludgy and meandering playing from the Attractions. 6/10
12. How Much I Lied
But it all ends on another real highlight in Costello's back-catalogue. With the lack of any steel guitar, strings or backing vocals, Elvis Costello and the Attractions are given their space to really shine bright in this gorgeous, piano-led rendition of Gram Parsons' original. A truly great song which ascends the country tag of this album nicely... 10/10
...that's not to say that I personally dismiss this album as sub-country mediocrity. That's not the case at all - I do think each cut has its own merits and can actually sit through them and enjoy even the weakest moments every now and then. It's also true to say that, while this is far, far away from my favourite Costello album, it was without a doubt one of the most influential on my musical tastes. After all, if it weren't for my picking up a copy of this and being pretty shocked to hear some country music blaring out from my stereo, I'd never have thought albums like the Gilded Palace Of Sin, Grievous Angel, White Light, Sweetheart Of the Rodeo and Pieces Of Sky had any merit to them (all of which now rank among my absolute favourite albums). So, basically, while it's nowhere near among my favourite albums of all-time, Almost Blue here was a real eye-opener for me, shedding light on an area of music that so many (particularly here in England) overlook. When all's said and done though...
PS - In case you're wondering where the outtakes section is, there's a grand total of twelve of them and, honest being honest, I never really listen to them enough to want to write something about them in particular. I might come back and go through them later if I can be bothered.
|11-25-2008, 07:39 PM
Join Date: Sep 2008
1982, F-Beat Records, Air Studios
Following an exhausting schedule of recording and touring, Elvis Costello and the Attractions took to the studio for the seventh time The initial sessions which took place in Air Studios were far from harmonious though; resulting with a tired, dull and hungover imitation of Trust as the band tried to beat the songs into submission somewhat.
Midway through this chaotic round of recording sessions (presumably as a result of some good old-fashioned sober reflection), a radically different direction for the album was opted for. This basically saw a much more careful, pensive and compositional approach to writing and recording. This way of thinking and the hiring of one Geoff Emerick as producer saw an album's worth of songs be completely re-written and, along with a few more songs being thrown into the mix, results in not only one of Costello's finest albums but (arguably) one of the very best albums of all time.
1. Beyond Belief
A sombre, brooding, slightly cold and somewhat down-tempo piece of rock here which sets the mood nicely for most of the rest of the album, all the while revolving around a terrific performance by drummer Pete Thomas. 8/10
2. Tears Before Bedtime
And here we see keyboardist Steve Nieve becoming noticeable all of a sudden. His organ-line underpins another marvellous band performance and very well-written song. It's the closest this album comes to the new-wave Costello was previously renowned for. 10/10
3. Shabby Doll
Another pretty cold song with another bitter, sneering lyric ('being what you might call a whore - always worked for me before' being just one of its many delights). It certainly sounds a lot more like a spontaneous jam than its finely-toned bedfellows on this album, and is for me probably the weakest part of it. 6/10
4. The Long Honeymoon
Here we have the first truly adventurous artistic endeavour on the album. Beneath a wonderful lyric, about the narrator thinking her lover's with her best friend but can't bring herself to pick up the phone and find out, this slow-burning song is led on by a beautifully haunting accordion wailing away, as well as quick bursts of guitar from Costello himself. The french horns bring a majestic end to a majestic song. 10/10
5. Man Out Of Time
With its furious, berserk intro, this number just leaps out of the ol' stereo speakers and really grabs the listener's attention, before slowing down into a gorgeous, mid-tempo, piano-led tune, and then speeding right up again during the fadeout (the live version in the below video skips the said tempo-changes btw). Another album highlight, if not one of the man's career highlights. 10/10
6. Almost Blue
Bizarrely named after his country & western covers album of the year before, to this point in his career this was as deeply emotional, gentle and at points depressing as Costello had ever been. A truly remarkable, old-fashioned torch-song led by another brilliant piano performance from Steve Nieve (which is mostly the common denominator with this album). 10/10
7. ...And In Every Home
And if the previous 3 were major artistic departures for Elvis Costello and the Attractions, then this song gets on the plane to Timbuktu and never comes back. It's basically Costello singing over a madly ambitious string arrangement composed by Nieve and some bloke called George Martin. 10/10
8. The Loved Ones
Back we go to good old piano-led rock 'n' roll. Certainly one of the more accessible numbers on the album, it's still another highlight, worth a 10 for the inhuman piano solo in the bridge alone. 10/10
9. Human Hands
This one's easily the catchiest, most hummable track on show here. Led by what sounds like a heavily-treated guitar motif before each verse, as well as an all-round white-hot backing band, it's another terrific song. Features one of Costello's most ambitious vocal performances as well. 9/10
10. Kid About It
From the raucous, up-tempo nature of the three songs before it, here we're taken right to the other side of the speedometer with a somewhat jazzy slow-burner. Not one of the best on the album upon the first listen, but it's certainly a grower. 6/10
11. Little Savage
And from there on in the general mood of the album in a musical sense gets a lot darker, this organ-led, maybe even slightly doomy-sounding song being a prime example of that. The lyrics, such as 'you do something very special to - Mr. Average - now the lamb lies with the lion - he's just a little savage' are nicely reflected musically, particularly by the moody organ solo after the second verse. 8/10
12. Boy With a Problem
A companion-piece to the similarly slow-burning piano ballad Almost Blue, it's not quite as emotional and touching as that song, but it's yet another beautifully well-structured song with some great lyrics too. It's something about hearing Costello sing 'came home drunk - talking in circles - the spirit is willing but I don't believe in miracles' which gets to me every time I hear it. 9/10
13. Pidgin English
Another very ambitious composition. The labyrinthine vocal overdubs, bass, horn arrangement, the Spanish guitar solo, the lyrics, occasional flourishes of creepy organ-lines, the majestic fadeout, it all just falls into place perfectly. 10/10
14. You Little Fool
This 'ere merry ditty, with a harpsichord underpinning another mazy studio production, is as close to psychedelic as Costello would ever get. It's return the mid-tempo antics and gorgeously cynical lyrics of earlier parts of the album, and a very fine song indeed on top of all that. 9/10
15. Town Cryer
And it's all rounded off by one of the most soaringly beautiful curtain-closers on any album. Steve Nieve's contribution is the simply perfect piano introduction to an absolutely sublime slow-burner is definitely one of the high points of the album. And also, if the string arrangement during the fadeout doesn't get to you at all, frankly you're not human! 10/10
The Land Of Give and Take: An early version of Beyond Belief, it's much more studio-enhanced and is slightly angrier than its final cut (which incidentally scraps a massive part of its original rendition's structure), and is therefore possibly slightly better than its later incarnation.
Little Goody Two Shoes: An absolute gem this. A slow, bass-heavy and jazzy number, it could easily have been slipped into the tracklisting in the place of Kid About It or Shabby Doll.
The Town Where Time Stood Still: Another great tune and one that could easily have made the album this. Upon rejection here this song would be re-recorded, considered and subsequently rejected from several albums to follow this one.
I Turn Around: Again, a very strong cut, but nevertheless below the par set by the album.
Imperial Bedroom: The elusive title-track here is another great tune and could easily have been stuck on at the end of the tracklisting.
World Of Broken Hearts, Really Mystified, Night Time and the Stamping Ground: A selection of covers which were presumably just recorded as studio workouts for Costello and the Attractions, as none of them are really very remarkable.
Town Cryer (disco version): A bit of a novelty here. It's very well-played, catchy and fun, but wouldn't really have fitted on the album.
So, summing up then...
This is one of my favourite albums of all time, no doubt about it. Like Trust before it, it's such a complex, diverse and well-written album, and you can find something new to love about each song on it upon repeated listening. The labyrinthine, overdub-heavy studio approach makes it sound kind of more fully realised as a work of art than Trust does. As a result its a piece of work that's definitely one of the most criminally overlooked albums ever. I therefore do not hesitate to give it the following rating...
Last edited by Bulldog; 12-19-2008 at 09:47 PM.
|12-02-2008, 05:26 PM
Join Date: Sep 2008
Punch the Clock
1983, F-Beat Records, Air Studios
You know when a prolific artist decides it's best to drop the kind of songwriting values they once held dear and pander to the masses with a fluffy, silky and accessible album? This is one of those moments.
For fear of being known for the gloomy cynicism of his previous songs, Elvis Costello not only wrote some bright pop songs to take into the studio, but he also enlisted the help of the Clive Langer/Alan Winstanley production partnership to help in shaping the sounding of a more chart-friendly album. Having produced hits by Dexy's Midnight Runners and Madness, this was a task the pair were more than up for, which involved the employment of the TKO Horns and the backing singers of Afrodiziak on their part. Another thing worth mentioning is that 'Clanger and Winstanley' were big advocates of the 'building block' production technique, whereby the finished song concerned would maintain as little resemblance as possible to the original demo version. It's a particular ethic which really does show here.
Consequently we have a very dated, hit-and-miss album, but let's get into all that as I start to yammer on about the tracks...
1. Let Them All Talk
One of the more obvious cases of Costello's new approach both lyrically and musically, this bright, cheery pop song revolves around a prominent horn figure, providing an interesting backdrop to an unusually optimistic and naive lyric. Hardly a bad song, but nothing really worth writing home about. 7/10
2. Everyday I Write the Book
Smooth and clean, like gasoline, this slick pop song is quite unlike anything Costello had recorded before (or perhaps even since). Any rough edges on this soulful number have clearly been sanded down nicely by the production techniques used and polished 'til you can see your face in it. Again, in spite of having dated quite a bit, it's not what I'd call a genuinely bad song. Judge for yourself I guess. 7/10
3. The Greatest Thing
And here's where the album starts to get itself into trouble. Another cheery pop song, the quickfire vocal delivery and gunshot percussion therein really don't do it any favours. 2/10
4. The Element Within Her
Another attempt at a catchy, jovial sort of sound, this piece of fluff is well below-par for the pretty much the same reasons as the Greatest Thing. 2/10
5. Love Went Mad
Driven by decent flourishes of piano and a well-worked chorus this, another catchy and upbeat tune, rises above the mire of the two which preceded considerably. It's a bit more like it in other words. 6/10
Written by Clive Langer and Costello for Robert Wyatt (which is why his version predates this one), the original rendition of a truly brilliant song easily stands up with its other working in terms of quality. A great slice of anti-Thatcherist angst preceded by probably my favourite ever piano intro. Worth getting the album for this alone. 10/10
7. TKO (Boxing Day)
As the title may suggest, this here's another song which revolves around a TKO horn figure. Despite its chart-friendly demeanour, it's one of the more sinister and somewhat darker moments of the record ('it's a fight to the finish let there be no doubt, as the seconds turn to minutes I can count you out' certainly makes it seem that way to me). 6/10
8. Charm School
With this song it's almost as if there's a conflict between Costello's songwriting and the production style. From listening to just the opening 30 seconds, it's clear to see that this song was intended to be a slow, acoustic ballad, which is in turn almost drowned out by the heavy-handed production style. That and the fact that it's a pretty weak piece of songwriting make it a whole lot less interesting. 3/10
9. The Invisible Man
One more song which was clearly written with a horn section in mind, like TKO it again sounds slightly more sinister than a lot of its bedfellows (well, as sinister as a brass-driven pop song can get anyway). Not so bad but, as with a lot of this album, not so good either. 5/10
10. Mouth Almighty
Date-stamped with the early 80s and slightly over-produced as it may be, this punchy and catchy number is another one of the better moments here, extracting as it does some good performances from the Attractions as a backing band which help it to rise above the less memorable cuts somewhat. 6/10
11. King Of Thieves
The same can be said here. This interesting tale of a blacklisted writer is backed up again by a good band performance (underpinned by a decently repetitive piano chord from Steve Nieve) and makes for a nice little pop song, as the album rises towards its climax. 7/10
12. Pills and Soap
Along with Shipbuilding, Pills and Soap is another stylistic stand-out from the rest of Punch the Clock. Propelled by a doomy piano chord from Nieve and Costello's deadpan vocal delivery this really is a very good song indeed (owing no small favour to Grandmaster Flash's the Message). 8/10
13. The World and His Wife
And it's all capped off by a dizzy, jovial knees-up of a song. Possibly the most uplifting item in Costello's back-catalogue, it boasts a brass arrangement which doesn't actually intrude on the song for a change, as well as a wonderfully memorable chorus. Great way to end the album. 9/10
Heathen Town: A brilliant song this. Christ knows why it never made the album.
The Flirting Kind: The same can't be said for this fairly unspectacular cut though.
Baby Pictures: Written at the same time as Shot With His Own Gun from Trust, it's interesting to hear Costello try and imitate the vocal stylings of some bloke called David Bowie.
So, summing up then...
It's fair to say that the Clanger and Winstanley 'building block' technique did a lot more harm than good to this album (this kind of over-cooking dating the end product somewhat), but even if it was presented as a rootsy, acoustic album as it probably should have been, there was clear indication that Costello's songwriting was finally starting to get weaker as he neared 'that 80s phase' as a lot of his contemporaries did. I can stand it and, depending on my mood, get through most of the tracks, but when all's said and done it's not really a very good album.
Last edited by Bulldog; 12-03-2008 at 04:02 AM.
|12-16-2008, 05:21 PM
Dazed and confuzzled
Join Date: Jul 2008
When's the next update? I'm enjoying this.
I have acquired four score and nineteen difficulties, but a wench cannot be counted among them
|12-17-2008, 03:31 AM
Join Date: Sep 2008
|12-18-2008, 09:02 AM
Join Date: Sep 2008
Goodbye Cruel World
1984, F-Beat Records, Air Studios
For the followup to Punch the Clock, Elvis Costello took to more or less the same songwriting and production strategies which defined that album but would try and shape a darker record to suit his mood (at the time he was in the midst of lengthy divorce proceedings with his then-wife). This saw the Clanger and Winstanley team called on again in order give Goodbye Cruel World the same mass appeal as the album which preceded it, only this time 'round there were a few changes. Basically, neither the TKO Horns nor Afrodiziak were called on again for these sessions, which instead led the hiring of guest musicians for the first time on any Costello album.
The results are a very very far from spectacular, such to the extent that I'd happily call this Costello's worst album. Now, let's find out why...
1. The Only Flame In Town
The album is kicked into life by a Gary Barnacle (a hired hand for David Bowie, the Clash, Public Image Limited and Bjork down the years) sax solo, who continues to punctuate a chirpy little slice of soulful pop (which features guest vocals from a certain Daryll Hall). Hardly the most offensive song here, but it's a sign of things to come. The video's just as daft as they all were back in the day as well. 6/10
2. Home Truth
Definitely one of the better songs on show here, this slow and moody song is certainly one of a precious few which doesn't suffer from the overproduction that a lot of the rest of the album does. Lyrically the man's on form, telling a morbid and grim tale of a couple falling out of love (the couplet 'is it the lies I tell you, or the lies that I might?' is probably my favourite little segment), with a decent enough performance from the Attractions (and no session musicians) to back it up. 6/10
3. Room With No Number
The gunshot-style percussion and the flourishes of Steve Nieve's keyboard may as well date-stamp this lively cut to a certain week in 1984. That'd be reason enough to dismiss this song entirely but, on the other hand, the songwriting behind this tune is very strong to the point that you can virtually hear it crying out for a more laid back and stripped-down arrangement. 7/10
4. Inch By Inch
A slower and slightly jazzy cut, it was reworked from a much better song called Little Goody Two-Shoes (an outtake from Imperial Bedroom). Listen to those two songs back to back and you'll see exactly how this highly-polished, glossy song should have been presented in its final version. 5/10
5. Worthless Thing
A combination of two seperate home demos, as a result we have some more great lyrics ('you can live forever in a split-second of fame' and 'how many times can you jump out of the cupboard, before someone gets suspicious or someone gets discovered?' being a couple of highlights) swamped by the clash of Costello's clear desire to write a slow, mournful song and the producers' intent to keep things upbeat. A pretty weak song then. 3/10
6. Love Field
The opening synth-loop dates this song horrifically, and the fact that it's not a very good piece of songwriting (as the rather lame title might suggest) makes for another very weak item. 4/10
7. I Wanna Be Loved
A cover of a Teacher's Edition B-side this, as the second single from the album, made use of the talents of Green Gartside on backing vocals (not that you'd really notice of course). Although it's certainly the most flat-out emotional and up-front moment on the album, it really hasn't dated very well at all and, as with a lot of the album, the Attractions can only offer rather flat and dull performances as a band. The video, though, is brilliant - one of those very rare ones which actually improves on the song it intended to promote. 2/10
8. The Comedians
Another tune which was intended as a slow and sorrowful ballad but the final result of which is a bizarre attempt to give the song too much pace. Costello subsequently gave Roy Orbison the song for his Mystery Girl album, who would make much better use of it. 4/10
9. Joe Porterhouse
Not such a bad song this, but unfortunately there's really not all that much to deem it as anything more though. Again, it just lacks the fire and punch which was once what the Attractions were renowned for. It does contain the wonderful line 'now what is left for me, among the broken branches of the family tree?' though. 5/10
10. Sour Milk-Cow Blues
Easily the pick of the litter here. Like Room With No Number, it's dated as well as a month-old carton of milk, but again the songwriting behind this furiously disenchanted song is very strong indeed. It's a fine example of how, despite any reservations we may or may not have of them, the studio techniques used in a lot of mainstream 80s rock can actually enhance a song sometimes. That and the fact that we're treated to a fiery and passionate vocal performance from Costello and fittingly good contributions from the Attractions really allow this song to rise above the mire. The lyrics, about simply not being able to recognise someone you've adored for so long, are absolute gold too;
You wear a different size and style of shoe
I think that someone must be poisoning you
To replace you with a living double
Get out of my life right now and save them all of the trouble
They changed your complexion and your personality
Somebody's putting ideas in your head
They took the girl of my dreams and left you here instead
Sour milk-cow blues
So, yeah, erm... 8/10
11. The Great Unknown
But here, we once again see the flipside of the coin. Initially demoed as a beautiful and emotional acoustic ballad, here's another song which has had the life squeezed out of it by its studio treatment. 3/10
12. The Deportee's Club
The same can be said for the song which follows it. Re-recorded two years later as an acoustic ballad, it's clear from the outset that the attempt to twist this into a hard-rocking number was very misguided. 4/10
13. Peace In Our Time
Overproduced, dated, misguided - again, this song just cries out for a stripped-down and rootsy reading. 4/10
I Hope You're Happy Now: A much more promising song than a lot of the ones which made the album, this would thankfully make it to a much better album than this one.
Get Yourself Another Fool: What you'd expect from any album outtake - not all that spectacular really.
Withered and Died: An acoustic and therefore somewhat effective and emotional ballad, this cover version (I forget who wrote it originally) should really have made the album.
She Loves the Jerk: An acoustic demo which which was (presumably) never given the studio treatment, it works well enough on its own.
Mystery Voice and Blue Murder On Union Avenue: Both of these home demoes were reworked into Worthless Thing. That said, they do stand up on their own; especially Mystery Voice, which boasts an interesting ska guitar-motif and some great lyrics.
So, summing up then...
Perhaps with a bit more thought and a different studio approach, this album could have ended up a lot better than it actually is. That said though, in a fair few places the songwriting is fairly below-par and weak. All in all, this was definitely the nadir of Costello's career, being very poorly received upon release. The events that followed it though would lead to some of the best moments of Costello's recording career. That and the inevitable breakup of the Attractions.