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Old 12-25-2008, 07:20 PM   #41 (permalink)
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Blood and Chocolate
1986, Demon Records, Air Studios (?)


Given that Elvis Costello and the Attractions were barely on speaking terms by 1986, a reunion must have been pretty bloody awkward. However, reunite is what they did indeed do and, not only that, but they saved the producer's chair for Costello's old pal Nick Lowe for the first time since 1981's Trust sessions. The Confederates, who'd done so much good on King Of America, were not called back into the studio. In fact, the only guest musician present was Costello's wife Cait O'Riordan (who had a brief cameo as a backing vocalist).

The result of such heated emotions in the studio was a much grittier, dirty, razor-backed and vicious effort than King Of America, as Costello attempted to do his lyrics (virtually all of which involve being pissed off with your partner) musical justice. Recorded in a whirlwind 11-day session, Costello opted for the unusual move of putting his songs to tape in one, large room of a studio, which allowed the band to play their instruments at an almost gig-level volume. For a record produced in such a short amount of time, and amidst such a tense atmosphere as there was, the results are remarkably good ones.

1. Uncomplicated
Here lies Costello's attempt to write a simple (uncomplicated if you will) two-chord rocker. It just sort of rolls out of the speakers you, getting by on Steve Nieve's distant organ flourishes and a tightly reined-in performance from the Attractions as a unit. 7/10


2. I Hope You're Happy Now
And here's the final resting place of a song Costello had attempted to record twice before, and you can tell he's finally nailed it after a good two years of trying. A frenetic and punky song which ups the tempo by a few notches and is host to a gloriously bitter and venemous set of lyrics (just what we like to see then );

'He's acting innocent and proud still you know what he's after
Like a matador with his pork sword, while we all die of laughter
In his turquoise pyjamas and motorcycle hat
I hope you're happy now because you'll soon put pay to that'


Brilliant song. Even this live, slightly slower version really hits the spot. 9/10


3. Tokyo Storm Warning
A menacing and surreal picture is nicely painted by another reasonably fast rocker, this time one of the kind of the trip around the world Costello and the Attractions had long since gotten used to. Such a pretty picture is painted by this Costello/O'Riordan co-write with its opening verse of...

'The sky fell over cheap Korean monster-movie scenery
And spilled into the mezzanine of the crushed capsule hotel
Between the Disney abattoir and the chemical refinery
And I knew I was in trouble but I thought I was in hell'


It could be a little overlong (and a properly bizarre choice for a single too) but anyway... 7/10

4. Home Is Anywhere You Hang Your Head
From there the pace of the album slows right down with this gloomy, pretty miserable number (the title alone points it in that direction). With lines such as 'home isn't where it used to be, home is anywhere you hang your head' this is a much more melancholy moment than the sneering cynicism which populates most of this album lyrically. 7/10

5. I Want You
Thanks to this item, it doesn't exactly sit out of place either. Opening with Costello's gentle, acoustic notes and proceeding via another tight and well-honed band performance, this rather hushed (one-take) performance suits the almost pornographic nature of lyrics quite nicely. On top of that it's one of the man's masterpieces (not exactly a wise move to release it as a single though which, of course, happened, barely making a dent on the singles charts). 10/10

6. Honey, Are You Straight Or Are You Blind?
Much more in touch with songs like I Hope You're Happy Now this frenzied, guitar-driven tune just jumps out at you after a somewhat more muted opening as an unusually thrashy spot in Costello's repertoire opens the can of worms that is side B. 8/10

7. Blue Chair
Certainly one of the most catchy songs on the album, for some strange reason it never saw release as a single. Given it's more upbeat nature than a lot of its bedfellows and the fact that the production method is slightly more heavy-handed here than on the rest of this red-raw record, it probably would have had a decent impact on the charts of the day. All the same, it's still one of the high points of a great album. 9/10

8. Battered Old Bird
As the only track present to feature Nieve on the piano (instead of electric organ) Battered Old Bird is something of a red herring on Blood and Chocolate. It's a beautiful, semi-autobiographic piece of writing from Costello (about a house his parents rented a flat from when he was kid), and the meaty lyrical subject matter is complimented by a slow and raw studio workout. It certainly caught my attention as a highlight on the first listen. 10/10

9. Crimes Of Paris
Like Blue Chair before it, Crimes Of Paris here is another uptempo and, dare I say it, chart-friendly slice of pop-rock (which, as I said, is unusual for such an abrasive and spiky album). The lyrics, again, are wonderfully evocative and really fit in with the overall mood of the album.

'She's so convenient, he's always stiff as hair-lacquer
It's hard to discover now he's in love with her
It was her way of getting her own back
You never did anything she couldn't do on her own
You're as good as your word and that's no good to her
You'd better leave that kitten alone'


Another one of my favourites off the album. 10/10

10. Poor Napoleon
Easily the most outright depressing moment on the record, propelled by Nieve's finely-tuned organ chords, Costello sings some his most deeply dissatisfied and angsty lyrics over a slow, sad and new wave-inspired song. It's many delights include...

'I bet she isn't all that's advertised
I bet that isn't all she fakes
Just like that place where they take your spine
And turn it into soapflakes'


But what really gets to me whenever I hear this song is the following couplet;

'Bare wires from the socket to the bed where you embraced that girl
Did you ever think there's far too many people in the world?'


Lyrics aside, it's yet another very well-written and performed song on a remarkably consistent album. 8/10

11. Next Time Round
It all draws to a close on a slightly more upbeat and uplifting note, with this mid-tempo, bass-led rocker calling time on a fairly short album (in comparison to the rest of Costello's back-catalogue anyway). 7/10

The Outtakes

Leave My Kitten Alone: This frenzied, first-take cover song (I forget who performed it originally) probably should have made the album.

New Rhythm Method: Another fast and relatively uncomplicated number, it's actually a pretty good song and could easily have fitted on the album in question.

Forgive Her Anything: Again, here we have a very fine song indeed being left off an album, although in this case, the haunting piano chords which propel the song probably would have made it stand out a bit.

American Without Tears Part 2: A sequel to the King Of America track, it's an interesting little curio but doesn't really amount to so much musically.

All These Things, Pouring Water On a Drowning Man, Running Out Of Fools, Tell Me Right Now and Lonely Blue Boy: For what I can imagine was a vocal warm-up session, Costello recorded this series of covers by himself. They all stand up well enough by themselves.

So, summing up then...
To follow up the upbeat and friendly King Of America, Costello chose to reunite with the Attractions and record a much more miserable and gritty album. As a result we have one of Costello's best and most consistent albums, and definitely one of is essentials. Unfortunately this was the last record he'd make with the Attractions for some 8 years.

9/10
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Old 01-13-2009, 06:23 AM   #42 (permalink)
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[bump]

Crikey, last post on Boxing Day, what've I been doing for three weeks?!

About time I revived this thread again, so I'll say that the next review will appear between now and Friday. Here, have a video;

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Old 01-18-2009, 02:23 PM   #43 (permalink)
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Spike
[Tracks 1-11]
1989, Warner Bros Records, Ocean Way (LA), Southlake (New Orleans), Windmill Lane (Dublin) and Air Studios (London)


Following the breakup of the Attractions, Elvis Costello was finally able to take some well-earned time off (following about 10 years of virtually constant touring and recording). Upon the end of his final tour with the Attractions for a good few years to come, and a few holidays around the world, Costello was called into the studio again, this time by a certain Paul McCartney. The general consensus was that, after the release of his Press To Play album in 1986 (which I actually quite like, but that's beside the point), McCartney was in decline as an artist. The batch of 10-odd songs that Costello and McCartney co-wrote in 1987 would end up in a variety of places, one of which was the ex-Beatle's own Flowers In the Dirt album. Two of these songs, namely Veronica and Pads, Paws and Claws, would be given the full studio-treatment by Costello for his own album-in-the-making.

That album, 1989's Spike, is basically the sound of an artist with a lucrative new record deal enjoying near-total artistic freedom. What that basically means is that Costello was able to make an album in a very drawn-out and expensive way, by which no two instruments (with the exception of the occasional use of horn arrangements) are played together, being recorded one by one on top of his own voice, rhythm guitar and a very sparse drum machine beat. This also culminated in an album which sounds more like a compilation than a cohesive studio effort - put simply, if no two tracks sound the same, then they certainly are all very unique from eachother indeed. It's as unique a mainstream album as I've ever heard, and in my opinion (along with The The's Mind Bomb, Talk Talk's Spirit Of Eden etc) one of the best musical products of the 80s.

1. This Town
The only one of these tracks which has dated even slightly is the album opener; a very complex and heavily-produced rocker (which makes use of that whole echoey-drum thing that was around a lot in them days). Listening closely you can just about hear the very distant backbone of the song, that being the acoustic guitar chord-progression, and how it's simply swamped by every other instrumental contribution. In other words, it's this album by numbers - basically a show of how effective the building-block approach to songwriting can be if placed in the right hands. 8/10

2. Let Him Dangle
One way in which Costello develops as an artist with this album is that he starts to deal with much meatier lyrical matters, concentrating not so much on the wordplay he was known for but instead delivering an up-front and blatant message, as he does with this folkish telling of the story of the Derek Bentley case. The best way to describe this song is as British folk-rock brought to a studio in 1989. 7/10


3. Deep Dark Truthful Mirror
Here's the first of many real U-turns (sound-wise) that the album takes, as Costello works his way through a slice of smooth jazz on the back of a virtuoso performance from Allen Toussaint on the piano. Backed by Toussaint's own horn section, this is truly one of Costello's best recordings. 10/10

4. Veronica
The first of a handful of Costello/McCartney songs on the album, Veronica would be Costello's last top 20 hit (barring a rather rubbish song for the Notting Hill soundtrack). It's a sweet and pretty pop song dedicated to Costello's Alzheimer's-afflicted grandmother and very powerfully written indeed;

'Is it all in that pretty little head of yours?
What goes on in that place in the dark?
Well I used to know a girl and I could have sworn
That her name was Veronica
Well she used to have a carefree mind of her own
And a delicate look in her eye
These days I'm afraid she's not even sure
If her name is Veronica'


Don't let the word 'pop' put you off though. While it's probably the most flat-out commercial song on the record, it's earnest and thought-provoking lyric over a wonderfully-arranged backing track really leaves a mark, as any truly great song should. Another one of Costello's finest without a doubt. 10/10

5. God's Comic
The pace slows right down here as the overall sound of the album takes another U-turn, this time with a folkish tale of a comedian finding God in the North Pole complete with a jazzy horn section to back things up. Again, we see the effect of Costello's approach in the studio turning a rather tame song (judging by the unspectacular demo of it) into something more worthwhile. It does meander a little though, and there are better songs around here... 6/10

6. Chewing Gum
...like this one for instance. The bass, spiky guitar interludes and occasional blasts from the horns make this easily the funkiest song Costello ever wrote and another album highlight. 9/10

7. Tramp the Dirt Down
Using the Uileann pipes, fiddle and bouzouki as it does, this is one of a couple of places here where Costello shows off his Irish ancestry in musical form. The slow, gentle and somewhat pensive recording of this song do another meaty lyrical subject matter a whole lot of justice. I won't say what it's about exactly, but this verse should give things away nicely;

'When England was the whore of the world
Margaret was her madam
And the future looked as bright and as clear
As the black tarmacadam
Well I hope that she sleeps well at night
Isn't haunted by every tiny detail
'cos when she held that lovely face in her hands
All she thought of was betrayal'
7/10

8. Stalin Malone
A jazzy instrumental interlude between sides of the album, it's essentially just a jam from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (the horn section used throughout the album). 5/10

9. Satellite
This soaring ballad is propelled nicely by one Michael Blair's musical contributions, those being the percussive flourishes of the tympani, marimba, vibraphone, glockenspiel and bells, which underpins a richly poetic way to describe looking up softcore porn;

'She looks like she learned to dance
From a series of still pictures
She's madly excited now
She throws her hands up like a tulip
She looks like an illustration of a cocktail party
Where cartoon bubbles burst in the air
Champagne rolls off her tongue like a second language'


Costello is on top vocal form here, and Chrissie Hynde's (formerly of the Pretenders) backing vocal really helps to set up a truly memorable chorus and another great song. 9/10

10. Pads, Paws and Claws
The second McCartney co-write is this quirky and skewiff number, the occasional rogue, screeching guitar chords thoroughly derailing this interesting number from the standard rock 'n' roll structure. Yet another tune which sticks out like a sore thumb on the tracklisting (and let's face it, virtually the whole album is made up of such things), and certainly a lot more raw and somewhat unpolished than a lot of the songs on the album. It certainly bares a lot more of a resemblance to the man's earlier work too. 7/10

11. Baby Plays Around
Like Lovable from King Of America, Baby Plays Around is another co-write from Costello and his then-wife (former Pogues bassist Cait O'Riordan). It's definitely the lightest and most unembellished song on the album, being an acoustic rock ballad framing a sorrowful lyric, which speaks for itself really;

'It's not open to discussion anymore
She's out again tonight
And I'm alone once more
She's all I have worth waiting for
But baby plays around'


Nothing earth-shattering, but a nice little song all the same, and a bit of light relief from heavy production methods which shape the rest of the album. 6/10

Last edited by Bulldog; 02-15-2009 at 08:56 AM.
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Old 01-18-2009, 02:33 PM   #44 (permalink)
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[Tracks 12-15, Outtakes]


12. Miss MacBeth
Right after the sweetly angsty and uncluttered Baby Plays Around comes another one of the more ambitious and adventurous tracks, this one being a brass-led waltz. Another mazy and very heavily-produced song which focusses musically on the baritone section of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Michael Blair's percussive contributions. Without yammering on too long (which I've probably done already in many places) the song is just pure gold, home to another set of great lyrics (if slightly drawn-out, which is why I'll just quote the chorus here);

'And everyday she lives out another lovesong
It's a tearful lament of somebody done wrong
How can you miss what you've never possessed
Miss MacBeth'
10/10

13. Any King's Shilling
Once again, if it weren't for Costello's voice, you could hardly be blamed for assuming that this song and Miss MacBeth were recorded by different artists. Another Celtic-flavoured folk song with another endearing lyric (this time the story of Costello's grandfather, an Irish military bandmaster with an English accent in a 1920s base in Dublin), it's yet another very good sonf (the live version in the video doesn't really capture the song's full glory, but hey). 8/10


14. Coal-Train Robberies
Musically the angriest number on the record, Coal-Train Robberies is something of a hard-rocker which is the only song on Spike that truly brings the intense bitterness of Costello's earliest work into 1989. Led by Jerry Marotta's pounding drumbeat and against punctuated by the occasional chords from Costello's rhythm guitar, it's another song which really lets the lyrics speak for the whole thing, which is just fine really;

'"So many good deeds, so little time"
Say the advertising agency slime
When man has destroyed what he thinks he owns
I hope no living thing cries over his bones'


One of my favourites. 10/10

15. Last Boat Leaving
To put the lid on a truly great record is this slower and deeply emotional tune, which is lyrically one more tale inspired by the deeds of Costello's grandfather.

'Hush my little one, don't cry so
You know your Daddy's bound to go
They took his pride
They took his voice
Don't upset him now, don't make a noise'


The lyrics are again absolute gold, but in truth it's a bit of a Her Majesty, ie slight anti-climax to the record. 6/10

The Outtakes.

The Ugly Things, You're No Good, Point Of No Return and the Room Nobody Lives In: Because of how the album was recorded, there are no real studio outtakes to speak of. These 'ere covers were recorded after the Spike sessions in order to make some B-side material.

So, summing up then...
One of the most difficult albums in Costello's back-catalogue, and it certainly takes a bit of keen listening to truly love it, given its wildly eclectic and ambitious nature. Once it clicks though, it really does come across as a truly fabulous and original album. Also, because of the way it was recorded, I can find something new to love about it after each listen. Definitely one of my all-time favs, and an essential when it comes to Elvis Costello's music. Call it fanboyism, but I don't hesitate in giving it the following rating...

10/10

Last edited by Bulldog; 01-18-2009 at 06:53 PM.
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Old 01-18-2009, 02:58 PM   #45 (permalink)
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cracking in depth write-up as always, for some reason I remember really getting into your CD copy for the first time reading the EC-penned sleevenotes, funny sh*t. It's all about 'God's Comic', lol

Wasn't this album out of print or hard-to-find in the UK for a while or something? Interestingly it's in the top 4 Costello albums on Last.fm but that might be down to 'Veronica'...
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Old 01-19-2009, 02:50 AM   #46 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Molecules View Post
cracking in depth write-up as always, for some reason I remember really getting into your CD copy for the first time reading the EC-penned sleevenotes, funny sh*t. It's all about 'God's Comic', lol

Wasn't this album out of print or hard-to-find in the UK for a while or something? Interestingly it's in the top 4 Costello albums on Last.fm but that might be down to 'Veronica'...
Gotta love the inlays for the CDs really - they didn't quite get me into every album, but I remember looking forward to reading a new one for an album I didn't have back in the good old days when I was buying them all on CD. They make for great light reading too (and now I've got them all up here - unlucky ).

I don't think it was out of print. It was reissued on CD around the same time as all his other albums were. But you're right, it was really hard to track down for a while here in dear ol' Blighty. Probably just one of those things. It's like the 30th anniversary edition of Ziggy Stardust - you can't find that for love nor money these days.

As for its top 4 status, I do know that both Spike and its follow-up Mighty Like a Rose actually outsold his first three albums, which is kinda weird as they're two of his most obscure efforts these days. Christ knows what When I Was Cruel is doing up there though.
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Old 01-22-2009, 05:15 PM   #47 (permalink)
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So, we're about halfway through the man's discography, so I thought I'd just post a compilation to give you all some idea of what's coming next - one song from each album I haven't reviewed. I was gonna review Mighty Like a Rose but, to be honest, I can't really be bothered to just yet.

EC 1991-2008.rar
1. 20% Amnesia [Brutal Youth]
2. American Gangster Time [Momofuku]
3. Either Side Of the Same Town [The Delivery Man]
4. Freedom For the Stallion [The River In Reverse]
5. In the Darkest Place [Painted From Memory]
6. I Want To Vanish [All This Useless Beauty]
7. Playboy To a Man [Mighty Like a Rose]
8. Someone Took the Words Away [North]
9. Spooky Girlfriend [When I Was Cruel]
10. Taking My Life In Your Hands [The Juliet Letters]
11. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away [Kojak Variety]

Next review coming up over the weekend. Stay tuned...
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Old 01-24-2009, 07:05 PM   #48 (permalink)
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Bulldog, I'd just like to thank you for all these reviews.

I happened upon this place while I was looking for the 'Trust' album artwork to put on my iPod. Being a massive Elvis Costello fan myself I was amazed to see how much time and effort you'd put into all this and it's been really interesting to read your opinions, not only on each album but each song! So much so I felt I had to register on here just to thank you for your efforts. Superb work. I look forward to reading your upcoming reviews.

Keep up the good work, feller!

My top 3 btw, 1. Imperial Bedroom 2. Blood and Chocolate 3. Get Happy!!
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Old 01-25-2009, 09:11 AM   #49 (permalink)
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Thanks buddy, great to know I'm the only one here Good choice of top 3 as well - my absolute favourite tends to switch between Imperial Bedroom, Spike and Trust on a day-to-day basis.

As for the rest of the thread, I should be able to get 'round to doing Mighty Like a Rose around evening time.

edit - If anyone's wandering what's happened to a few of the videos, those kill-joys at WGM have had them taken down. I'll work on replacing the links when I can, but it could take a while.

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Old 01-25-2009, 04:28 PM   #50 (permalink)
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Mighty Like a Rose
1991, Warner Bros Records, Ocean Way and Westside Studios (London)


Despite its dividing critics and fans alike nicely down the middle, Spike had become Costello's biggest-selling record since 1979's Armed Forces, which is quite an accomplishment given the eclectic and noncommercial nature of the album as a whole. To follow it up, Costello opted for the same wall-of-sound approach to recording his songs. Mighty Like a Rose (named after Vaughn de Leath's ditty of the same name) is, then, something of a stylistic sequel to Spike, only this time the results of the studio sessions are even more bafflingly eclectic and ultimately difficult than the ones which preceded it. Therefore, this is arguably Costello's most experimental and off-the-wall album (although it the same could be argued for Spike and When I Was Cruel). Lyrically, the yarn-spinning themes which populated Spike were dispensed with and replaced with the anger, disenchantment and melancholy present in his earlier work (sometimes even taken to their extremes).

1. The Other Side Of Summer
To kick things off we're a great little piece of surf pop, which is itself twisted into nasty, dark and sinister pastiche of the Beach Boys. It's basically the perfect musical backdrop for a poem which goes out of its way to prove that 'there's malice and there's magic in every season'. Here's a verse for you peruse;

'Was it a millionaire who said "imagine no possessions"?
A poor little schoolboy who said "we don't no lessons"?
The rabid rebel dogs ransack the shampoo shop
The pop princess is downtown shooting up
And if that goddess is fit for burning
The sun will struggle up the world will still keep turning'


Some of my personal favourite Costello lyrics here, and a terrific song for sure, again showing how effective the wall-of-sound technique can be. 10/10

2. Hurry Down Doomsday (the Bugs Are Taking Over)
From there the album steers itself more towards good old rock 'n' roll territory, although the confusingly skewiff nature of this recording hides that notion nicely (to the untrained ear anyway). Jim Keltner's percussive contributions and James Burton's blasts of guitar make for a very strange-sounding rock song indeed - making for a nicely unsettling musical backdrop for a lyrics which begins with 'the man in the corner of this picture has a sinister purpose, in the Teeming Temple Of the Railroad Kings' who's 'planting a trashy paperback for accidental purchase'. It's possible that the target of this particular tirade was none other than Costello's former bassist Pete Thomas, who at the time had recently published an autobiography which accused Costello of having a major identity crisis (along with a lot of skeletons in his cupboard). Needless to say, Costello was pretty pissed about this.

Anyway, a good song which helps the mood of the album along that little bit further. 7/10

3. How To Be Dumb
If Hurry Down Doomsday wasn't a dig at Bruce Thomas though, this is about as blatant as having a pop at someone comes;

'Now you've got yourself a brand new occupation
Every fleeting thought is a pearl
And beautiful people stampede to the doorway
Of the funniest fucker in the world
They're here to help you satisfy your desires
There's a bright future for all you professional liars'


Say what you like about the Costello lyrics you might have heard before, but this here is about as downright nasty as he ever got. Again, backed up musically by a suitably furious rock arrangement. 7/10

4. All Grown Up
And here the album changes musical direction dramatically again, as Costello croons his way through a glorious and soaring piece of chamber pop, punctuated as it is by Fiachra Trench and Gavin Wright's orchestral arrangements. 8/10

5. Invasion Hit Parade
Featuring none other than Costello's father Ross MacManus on the trumpet, this bitter and angry song tells the tale of hypocrisy involved in the mass media's role in wartime coverage which, it's safe to assume, was inspired by the events of the Gulf War. The lyrics are, again, among Costello's finest and most evocative;

'The liberation forces make movies of their own
Playing their Doors records and pretending to be stoned
Drowning out a broadcast that wasn't authorised
Incidentally the revolution will be televised
With one head for business and another for good looks
Until they started arriving with their rubber aprons and their butcher's hooks'


That and the distortion which precedes the song (making it seem almost as if we're tuning into a pirate radio station) really help to paint a very strong image for us. If it weren't for the fact that it's slightly overlong, this'd be another well-earned ten. 9/10

6. Harpies Bizarre
Getting by as it does on the back of some terrific woodwind arrangements, Harpies Bizarre is a massively interesting tune, combining elements of classical music (which Costello was slowly beginning to take a keen interest in) and rock music structures. A terrific melody behind some another set of inspired lyrics, it's another one of the man's true greats... 10/10

7. After the Fall
...which is juxtaposed nicely by the softly-sung, uncluttered nature of this acoustic folk number. Grim, depressing, atmospheric, wonderful lyrics and another very good song indeed.9/10

8. Georgie and Her Rival
With its strong allusions of the new wave sounds of yesteryear, Georgie and Her Rival is, along with the opening track, the most musically upbeat and commercially viable tune on the album. That said, it still stays true to the ideas behind the album, and it's plain to hear yet another very complex and well-constructed song yielding some more very fine results. 8/10

9. So Like Candy
Being another one of the songs Costello had written with Paul McCartney some four years earlier, this grim and moody, new wave-afflicted tune was the second choice as a single release (the first being the Other Side Of Summer). Although the verses tend to meander a little musically, it's another well-honed and thought-out song with an infectious chorus. 8/10

10. Couldn't Call It Unexpected no:2
Just a twenty-odd second interlude between two songs. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band returned to Costello's service to record this very unremarkable instrumental. 2/10

11. Playboy To a Man
As it fades out though, we're taken straight into this frenzied number; another one of the Costello/McCartney co-writes of yesteryear. A furiously up-tempo, kind of playful and razor-backed effort at the same time, it's another pick of the litter for me (even if the lyrics aren't all that interesting). 9/10

12. Sweet Pear
Opening with a pastiche of the Beatles' Don't Let Me Down riff, this slow-burning effort (in spite of boasting a great vocal performance) is, if truth be told, a pretty mediocre song and one more low-point of an otherwise very fine album. 5/10

13. Broken
One of the best and most miserable rock ballads I've ever heard, simply because the instrumentation goes leaps and bounds to try and avoid that particular stereotype. This Cait O'Riordan-penned song is underpinned by ghostly organ flourishes, and the lyrics just make it all the more haunting and memorable;

'If I am frightened, then I can hide it
If I am crying, I'll call it laughter
If I am haunted, I'll call it my imaginary friend
If I am bleeding, I'll call it my wine
But if you leave me, then I am broken
And if I'm broken, then only death remains'
10/10

14. Couldn't Call It Unexpected no:4
Such a song couldn't prepare you any less for the playful, jaunty waltz that is the closing track. Again, it's a musical backdrop which contradicts the lyrics (concerning that damn fear of death and the non-existence implied). It brings a mazy and quite bizarre album to a fitting close, boasting some more of Costello's most deep-cutting and meaningful lyrics;

'Please don't let me fear anything I cannot explain
I can't believe I'll never believe in anything again'
9/10

The Outtakes.
Just Another Mystery: Opening with an infectious horn figure, this song doesn't quite live up to that initial promise, but still would have made a fine addition to the album.

Forgive Her Anything: Another crack at recording a song which was left off of Blood and Chocolate, this is a much more inferior version than the aforementioned one.

It Started To Come To Me: Demoed, but never taken into the studio, this very promising song could have been shaped into great tune. Thankfully, it would be a few years later.

So, summing up then...
An album which baffled fans and critics alike and is, for some strange reason, often seen as one of Costello's worst. Needless to say, I don't think so at all. It's a very challenging and difficult album for sure but, like Spike before it, really stands up as a great piece of work once it clicks. While not quite as consistently great as that album was however, it's still one of Costello's best.

9/10

Last edited by Bulldog; 01-25-2009 at 04:54 PM.
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