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Four Obscure Elvis Costello Songs Reviewed


There is truly no one in the world more ambivalent about Elvis Costello than I am. In 1977, I officially switched boy crushes from David Bowie to Elvis and from 1977 till 1982, he could do no wrong. And then from 1893 till 1986 he could do some wrong and some very right.

After that the odds kept working against him and as he became a musical dilettante, more and more it just depressed me. Entire albums where I couldn’t find a decent songs, so much hand wringing boredom where all the snideness so long his calling card didn’t matter and worse, where there wasn’t any snideness anyway. We pick and choose our way through landfills or arrogant dross to reach those moments of joy… Here are four songs you might not know…

Slow Drag With Josephine –  “Gavotte, garrotes, Cotillions and slow Arabesques, drum-rolls and Farandoles were all made in jest…” I know, it made me ill as well, but this story of infidelity, she catches him in bed with some chick and storms off… he goes in search and can’t find her, has a very catchy hook, “adieu, my little ballyhoo”. Too clever for its own good but at least it is light on its feet and it has  jingly rhymes that work well off his smarty pants wordiness.

American Gangster – This is off the straight ahead (relatively speaking) off Momofuku  – a solid if less than thrilling album of Imposters does Attractions rock, and this is the best of the lot: a rattling good sneer. A politically charged (I’m guessing the guy getting the blowjob is some High Ranking Armed Forces type) thumbs down so catchy it has you singing in the showers,. Costello holds his politics tight to his chest and threadbares it all over your face with a cotton candy chorus: “It’s a drag saluting that starry rag, I’d rather go blind for speaking my mind or use it just like a gag”. The song, with a pounding organ on the outro, is a swift, smart rocker.

Let Me Tell You About Her – Up until this point in North, it has been a discordant mess of jazz moves. Intentional, sure, but unlistenable as well. Then this song has the first rush of new love and it is a melodic dream song, “I wasn’t very conversational, except to say that y

ou’re sensational” is his earliest move on the woman (Diana Krall of course, it is his marriage album –North to Canada) and the song is both the joyful up of the love, and the swoony heat of new sex.

Broken Bicycles. Junk – Off his excellent For The Stars album, this juxtapositions Annie Sofer von Otter’s take on Tom Wait’s broken bicycles next to Costelleo’s take on McCartney’s memories in the yard, and they both feed off each other, one with a sense of time as dispatch and the other with a feel for nostalgia as half remembered and closely disposed of dreamscapes from another time. By the end of the song they soar forward together.


  1. […] in most songs. I’m sure there are exceptions, but this is not one of them. There are many fans of this song, which is well deserved. If whistling in a song isn’t a hard pass for you, this […]

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