Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Elvis Costello - Girls! Girls! Girls!


In other words, this is a 2 CD greatest hits collection of a sort. And compiled in 1989, so exclusive of the last 20 years this prolific singer, musician, songwriter and producer has worked. This works for me because, pardon the cliché, I like his old stuff better than his new stuff.

Early in his career, Elvis Costello wrote music for beach parties held by people who read Sartre and Proust. The music was referential without being derivative while his lyrics were sneery and intelligent without making him sound like a smartarse. And his delivery, coupled with his nerdy looks, fitted his spiky rock template perfectly. His marvelous band, The Attractions, only furthered his appeal.

I’ve seen Elvis a number of times live but the first time is the one that sticks in my head the most. With my younger brother, a work-mate and his girlfriend, I saw him at a small theatre in my hometown. Prior to the show, we smoked the fattest, strongest joint I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t know what else was in that spliff, but I think I experienced my first rush of true punk angst thanks to Mr. Costello.

Or maybe it was just the drugs…

Anyway, the live set included favourites such as (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea, This Year's Girl, Lipstick Vogue, Accidents Will Happen, Watching The Detectives, Oliver’s Army and, of course, Pump It Up, all of which are included on this collection. While these songs haven't lost any of their vitality or relevance, there are plenty of tracks on this collection which, frankly, bore me to tears.

Having said this, the collection works as a taster for those who might not be familiar with the many aspects of this artist. For me, however, it just makes me wanna go out and by his first three albums again.

VERDICT: TURN IT UP (for the first disc, anyway)


I have a confession - I've fallen asleep at an Elvis Costello concert. In my defence, it was the Almost Blue tour (both kinds of music, country and country), and I'd just had a large Chinese meal with a couple of drinks. But it's still a blot on my career as a Costellophile.

I spent a great deal of my 20s and some of my 30s in what used to be called "serial monogamy" (despite being somewhat shaky on the monogamy part hem hem) and Elvis Costello was always part of what I still call "boy music". In fact I first bought this collection on CD for a live-in man (in a record shop in Chelsea, oh the irony). But when I had a long spell of boylessness I determined I would rectify the non-Costello part of my music collection, and re-bought this double album especially for me.

It's a reasonable collection of songs - although it misses Veronica and Good Year for the Roses, among others - and the CDs have performed a good stop-gap. But now I want to go out and buy My Aim Is True, This Year's Model, Armed Forces and Get Happy. Because all of these have spent time on turntables (remember them?) in houses I've lived in, and I'm sure Your won't mind if they make a return.

VERDICT: TURN IT UP (for Pump It Up, especially)

For more information: http://www.elviscostello.com/

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