Deep Album Cuts Vol. 122: Elvis Costello & The Attractions

With Elvis Costello gearing up to release his first album in a few years, Look Now, next week, I had been thinking of doing this playlist for a few months. And then in July the worrying news came out that he'd be canceling some tourdates after undergoing surgery following a cancer diagnosis. I hope that he enjoys a full recovery and many healthy years to come, things sound pretty positive on that front, but in any event he's been in my thoughts a lot and I'm remembering all the great music he's made and how much it's meant to me. A few years ago I actually made a 'box set' of 4 Elvis Costello playlists, one for each decade of his career, so this is really more or less a pared down version of the '70s and '80s picks from those.

Elvis Costello & The Attractions deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Waiting For The End Of The World
2. Mystery Dance
3. Blame It On Cane
4. Welcome To The Working Week
5. No Action
6. You Belong To Me
7. This Year's Girl
8. Lipstick Vogue
9. Party Girl
10. Green Shirt
11. Two Little Hitlers
12. The Imposter
13. Secondary Modern
14. King Horse
15. You'll Never Be A Man
16. Strict Time
17. Brown To Blue
18. ...And In Every Home
19. Beyond Belief
20. The Greatest Thing
21. Worthless Thing
22. I'll Wear It Proudly
23. Indoor Fireworks
24. Uncomplicated
25. I Hope You're Happy Now
26. Pads, Paws And Claws
27. Deep Dark Truthful Mirror

Tracks 1, 2, 3 and 4 from My Aim Is True (1977)
Tracks 5, 6, 7 and 8 from This Year's Model (1978)
Tracks 9, 10 and 11 from Armed Forces (1979)
Tracks 12, 13 and 14 from Get Happy!! (1980)
Tracks 15 and 16 from Trust (1981)
Track 17 from Almost Blue (1981)
Tracks 18 and 19 from Imperial Bedroom (1982)
Track 20 from Punch The Clock (1983)
Track 21 from Goodbye Cruel World (1984)
Tracks 22 and 23 from King Of America (1986)
Tracks 24 and 25 from Blood And Chocolate (1986)
Tracks 26 and 27 from Spike (1989)

Three of the above albums are not with The Attractions -- My Aim Is True, King Of America, and Spike, although Attractions members play on some songs on the latter 2. Elvis Costello has made a lot of wide ranging music with a lot of different collaborators, but the music with The Attractions will always be closest to my heart. Even his band of the last 16 years, The Imposters, is basically just the Attractions' Steve Nieve and Pete Thomas with a new bassist in place of the Attractions' Bruce Thomas -- kind of a snide and clever way to preempt any criticism of the substitution, as well as a nod to the Get Happy!! deep cut "The Imposter" (and the alias he released the "Pills And Soap" single under).

There's an oft-quoted David Lee Roth quip that "The reason the critics all like Elvis Costello better than me is because they all look like Elvis Costello." That's a funny line, and I'll say there's at least a little truth to it for me: when I was a teenager who'd been recently saddled with corrective lenses, I began to gravitate to the short-haired bespectacled rock stars who were a little easier to relate to than glamorous long-haired rock gods. So I had a soft spot for Buddy Holly and They Might Be Giants and Talking Heads, and from the age of 16 forward, I absolutely worshiped Elvis Costello. I think part of growing up was learning to take Costello's (sometimes misogynist) nerd rage with a grain of salt, to acknowledge his mistakes like the Ray Charles incident and make no excuses for him. But he remains someone who really shaped my taste and showed how you could be both a sharp lyricist and an omnivorous musical adventurer.

I kind of put Elvis & The Attractions in a personal holy trinity with Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, all acts that got started in the '70s and set great examples for what could be accomplished by a brilliant singer/songwriter when they assemble the perfect band to back them. Pete Thomas is just one of my favorite drummers ever, Steve Nieve brilliantly reinvented the role of the rock keyboardist, and even the contentious ex-bassist Bruce Thomas contributed countless great moments to the catalog, from "Party Girl" to "Beyond Belief."

I hemmed and hawed about whether to include "Beyond Belief," since it was never released as a single but is widely and rightly regarded as one of his greatest songs and has appeared on pretty much every best-of compilation covering the first decade of his career. So, not the deepest cut, but a deep cut nonetheless.

I could include virtually any deep cut from the first three albums, so I kind of narrowed it down by whim, although "Lipstick Vogue" and "Green Shirt" would make the cut any day of the week. I was recently pleased to hear "This Year's Girl" as the theme song to the second season of "The Deuce." Incidentally, there's a great story that Elvis Costello wanted to look pissed off on the cover of This Year's Model and asked the photographer to play "Hotel California" while he took the picture. Apparently white rockers flirting with reggae was an extremely territorial business in the '70s.

Elvis Costello's 1980s were such an up-and-down decade of successes and failures, albums that were given over entirely to genre experiments and production conceits. But he wrote a ton of great songs for 9 albums in all, and finished up with Spike, a comeback record that included his biggest U.S. chart hit, "Veronica," as well as another less revered Paul McCartney co-write, "Pads, Paws And Claws," so that seemed like a good point to end the mix, chronologically speaking.

I should note that famed Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick passed away this week, since Imperial Bedroom was his crowning achievement as a producer. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with both that album and King Of America, which are good but I feel like don't entirely deserve their reputations as Costello's best post-'70s albums. They obviously have great songs, though. That string arrangement on "...And In Every Home" always amazes me. And I love "I'll Wear It Proudly" with that beautiful Mitchell Froom organ refrain that, as Costello once pointed out in reissue liner notes, foreshadowed his similar work on Crowded House's hit "Don't Dream It's Over" later that year.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas
Vol. 75: Monica
Vol. 76: The Cars
Vol. 77: 112
Vol. 78: 2Pac
Vol. 79: Nelly
Vol. 80: Meat Loaf
Vol. 81: AC/DC
Vol. 82: Bruce Springsteen
Vol. 83: Pearl Jam
Vol. 84: Green Day
Vol. 85: George Michael and Wham!
Vol. 86: New Edition
Vol. 87: Chuck Berry
Vol. 88: Electric Light Orchestra
Vol. 89: Chic
Vol. 90: Journey
Vol. 91: Yes
Vol. 92: Soundgarden
Vol. 93: The Allman Brothers Band
Vol. 94: Mobb Deep
Vol. 95: Linkin Park
Vol. 96: Shania Twain
Vol. 97: Squeeze
Vol. 98: Taylor Swift
Vol. 99: INXS
Vol. 100: Stevie Wonder
Vol. 101: The Cranberries
Vol. 102: Def Leppard
Vol. 103: Bon Jovi
Vol. 104: Dire Straits
Vol. 105: The Police
Vol. 106: Sloan
Vol. 107: Peter Gabriel
Vol. 108: Led Zeppelin
Vol. 109: Dave Matthews Band
Vol. 110: Nine Inch Nails
Vol. 111: Talking Heads
Vol. 112: Smashing Pumpkins
Vol. 113: System Of A Down
Vol. 114: Aretha Franklin
Vol. 115: Michael Jackson
Vol. 116: Alice In Chains
Vol. 117: Paul Simon
Vol. 118: Lil Wayne
Vol. 119: Nirvana
Vol. 120: Kix
Vol. 121: Phil Collins
« Home | Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »

Post a Comment