Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Occasional Favourites - Elvis Costello

"Its the stupid details that my heart is breaking for
Its the way your shoulders shake and what they're shaking for
Its knowing that he knows you now after only guessing
Its the thought of him undressing you or you undressing"

I've a funny relationship with Costello; for a few years of my life he was possibly my favourite musician. But then he became, in my opinion at least, a parody of himself. So I've not bought a new Costello album since Brutal Youth back in 1994.

But from 1977 to 1986 he released a series of albums that are simply superb for the most part. Which makes it difficult to pick favourites: I could pick the whole of Get Happy for instance or Blood And Chocolate.

I've gone for what I think is his best song, perhaps one of the best songs ever written by anybody.

I Want You. It's not necessarily a song I enjoy listening to. It's too real, capturing perfectly that state of mind that hits when you've been dumped. That pain of the loss, the bitter anger and paranoia as you trawl over the memories for some sign of what was going to come. That almost obsessive imagining of what the other person is doing, sometimes only in your head. But none the less painful for that.

Town Cryer and New Lace Sleeves make up today's trio. It could have been any number of songs, as I said, but these two are ones I like to sing along with. Costello's singing style is actually too easy to parody; his phrasing verges on the mannered. But there's no mistaking the feeling. Town Crier, from his Imperial Bedroom album, is a magnificent song and the orchestral arrangement that builds throughout heighten the emotion. And New Lace Sleeves from Trust sounds like a hangover after the excesses of Get Happy. But the way Costello sings the second verse gets me every time:"Oh I know they've got their problems; I wish I was one of them".

Elvis Costello - I Want You
Elvis Costello - Town Cryer
Elvis Costello - New Lace Sleeves


adam said...

I've tried so hard, alright, reasonably hard, not to comment on this one too but isn't it just perfect. I really like Town Cryer, the way he makes the same lines change so much each verse, and New Lace Sleeves is lovely, but I Want You really is another one of the very best things in the whole wide world. I have a notional top ten list of songs I hope I never have to sing along with and mean and I Want You is in every place in the top ten. The line 'The truth can't hurt you it's just like the dark / It scares you rigid but in time you see things clear and stark' was the quote I had at the head of my very first blog.

Simon said...

I've been there; that place Costello goes to in this song. Not a pretty place. And probably why I can't always listen to this song by itself. It's much better wrapped up in the confines of Blood And Chocolate.

And to think he produced King Of America in the same year. Those two for me are his absolute peak. The previous 9 years were leading to that and the rest since then has been anti climax in comparison.

ally. said...

when he's on form he's magic and makes i want you damn near unlistenable.
i wish he didn't do too much cleverclogs stuff when he's capable of this and alison and a handful more

That Queer Chick said...

Thanks so much for this.

FYI, the first and third link are both for "I Want You."

Simon said...

No thank you!

I had wondered why nobody had downloaded New Lace Sleeves!