Sunday, May 30, 2010

When are they gonna stop all of these victory processions

When Trust came out in 1981 the backlash against Elvis Costello's cringe-inducing racist comment was in full force. The momentum of his career was affected enough that the album was treated with mostly indifference by the press and public, and for the first time since his first album no singles made the charts in the UK.

Knowledgeable reviewers knew the score though - this was EC's finest album to date. The power pop of This Year's Model, the orchestrated sweep of Armed Forces, and the compressed soulfulness of Get Happy all came together in a mature collage of lyrics and melodies. And the Attractions were at an absolute peak, giving each song a sound universe befitting the generally downbeat lyrics.

Just about every tune on this LP is a keeper, even the near rockabilly Luxemburg. For my money the absolute standout track it New Lace Sleeves with its shifting rhythms and harmonic movements that take it into new unexplored territory. The bass, percussion, and keyboard work are so fine I cannot bring justice to them with mere words. The final staccato organ chords keep coming back again and again as the song trails off. The first half deals with the aftermath of a less than successful tryst and then pulls in the media circus around politicians and their penchant for indiscreet rendevous. In the second half EC wags his finger at the British empire and its pursuant warmongering. At least that is how I read it, as on this album Mr. MacManus becomes even more opaque and obscure, but the rhythm and the poetry of the lyrics stand up even if they have become nearly indecipherable.