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Elvis Costello

Of all the musicians who emerged in the wake of punk in the late 1970s, Elvis Costello perhaps has the richest back-catalogue. Musically literate and stylistically restless, in some ways Costello had little in common with the punk movement; his lyrics are dense and filled with in-jokes and obscure references. But in other significant ways he fitted in perfectly; young Elvis Costello was angry, and he’s hardly a polished vocalist or guitarist.

Costello started his career  with a trilogy of stripped back, angry albums: 1977’s My Aim Is True, 1978’s This Year’s Model, and 1979’s Armed Forces. The first was recorded with bar band Clover, while by his second record, Costello had recruited a virtuoso backing band, The Attractions. Drummer Pete Thomas, bassist Bruce Thomas, and keyboardist Steve Nieve provided nimble and energetic backing for Costello.

This early trilogy is generally Costello’s most acclaimed era, but personally I prefer his more musically expansive work in the early 1980s. In 1980 Costello made the first of many unexpected career moves, recording a full album of R&B for Get Happy!! He followed up with the eclectic Trust, an album of strait-laced country covers on Almost Blue, and Imperial Bedroom, where the sophisticated arrangements recalled The Beatles’ studio-based albums.

I don’t really appreciate Costello’s commercially oriented work with Langer and Winstanley, but he came back strongly in 1986 with two new albums; King of America is a country-flavoured of originals, while the raw Blood & Chocolate recalls his 1970s’ work with The Attractions.

I haven’t covered Costello’s career past his first ten years. He rarely worked with The Attractions after this time; his relationship with Bruce Thomas became strained, especially after Thomas wrote a book of thinly disguised anecdotes about life on the road (Costello is referred to as “The Singer”), although Nieve and Pete Thomas continue to work with Costello as The Imposters. But there are a ton of gems in those first ten years, and any fan of literate, melodic rock music would be advised to become familiar with albums like Imperial Bedroom and Armed Forces.

Ten Favourite Elvis Costello Songs

New Lace Sleeves
Beyond Belief
Alison
Sleep of the Just
New Amsterdam
You’ll Never Be A Man
Green Shirt
Man Out Of Time
Little Triggers
You Little Fool

6 thoughts on “Elvis Costello Leave a comment

  1. Good take. Brutal Youth I think is with the Attractions and I really like that one a lot. Elvis and the Attractions were just one of many great bands that CB was bombarded with at the time. Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Graham Parker and the Rumor, The Motors, The Clash, Ian Dury…..I like all these bands and I do like EC “So much good music so little time”

    Liked by 1 person

      • CB is a bad guy to educate you. The Motors were in the mix for me along with XTC, Squeeze. I think they came out of a band called Ducks Deluxe (good stuff also who had some of the Rumor guys in it.). ‘Approved by the Motors’ is a very good album. I think you’d like it. Check out ‘Airport’. I think it got a lot of airplay over in the UK. Lots of good tunes on it. Parker is up there as one of CB’s all time favorites. Ian is just his own style.

        Liked by 1 person

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My Aim Is True – Elvis Costello

My Aim Is True 1977, 8/10 Elvis Costello had been gigging in pubs since 1970, but the proliferation of new … Continue Reading My Aim Is True – Elvis Costello

This Year’s Model – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

This Year’s Model 1978, 7.5/10 By the time Elvis Costello recorded his sophomore album, he had recruited a sharp backing … Continue Reading This Year’s Model – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Armed Forces – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Armed Forces 1979, 9/10 They were both strong albums, but My Aim Is True had great songs that were undersold by … Continue Reading Armed Forces – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Get Happy!! – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Get Happy!! 1980, 8/10 Famously, while touring Armed Forces in 1979, a drunk Costello became embroiled in an argument with … Continue Reading Get Happy!! – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Trust – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Trust 1981, 8.5/10 After the genre exercise of Get Happy!!, Elvis Costello dropped back into usual album making routine with … Continue Reading Trust – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Almost Blue – Elvis Costello and The Attractions

Almost Blue 1981, 7/10 After Costello’s foray into R&B on Get Happy!! and the eclectic Trust, his fans must have … Continue Reading Almost Blue – Elvis Costello and The Attractions

Imperial Bedroom – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Imperial Bedroom 1982, 10/10 After recording five albums of original songs with Nick Lowe as producer, Elvis Costello elected to … Continue Reading Imperial Bedroom – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Punch The Clock – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Punch The Clock 1983, 6/10 Elvis Costello went for the pop jugular with Punch The Clock, teaming up with the … Continue Reading Punch The Clock – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Goodbye Cruel World – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Goodbye Cruel World 1984, not rated I’ve never bothered with Goodbye Cruel World, because firstly it sounds like a weaker … Continue Reading Goodbye Cruel World – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

King of America – Elvis Costello

King of America 1986, 7.5/10 Following the artistic failure of Goodbye Cruel World, Costello returned to a more organic approach … Continue Reading King of America – Elvis Costello

Blood & Chocolate – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Blood & Chocolate 1986, 8.5/10 Elvis Costello has described Blood & Chocolate as a pissed-off, divorced, 32 year old’s take … Continue Reading Blood & Chocolate – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

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