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.

5 comments:

Holly A Hughes said...

I suppose I was suffering from Elvis fatigue when this came out -- I don't think of it as one of his best albums, yet so many songs on here are iconic EC gems. "Watch Your Step," "From a Whisper to a Scream," "Big Sister's Clothes" -- not just great tracks, but essential EC tracks, with the Attractions at the peak of their tightness. Steve Nieve's organ work on this is just transcendental. Thanks for reminding us of this. (Good to see you back!)

tbrough said...

This was, too me, the album where EC finally became a singer. The Elvis prior to this would not have attempted "Shot With His Own Gun" or "Whisper To a Scream." Thanks for the post about my all time favorite artist.

Alex said...

EC & Glenn Tilbrook's duet on "From a Whisper to a Scream" is one of the finest musical moments from two careers filled with great musical moments.

Mister Pleasant said...

I was in the same boat as you when Trust came out, Holly. About ten years ago I revisited my EC collection and it was only at that time that I realized I had overlooked a real gem. As you mentioned, Steve Nieve's keyboard work here really shoots through the roof.

Tim - you are so right. Elvis really found his voice with this record. It really set the stage for Town Cryer on Imperial Bedroom - which still sends shivers down my spine.

Mister Pleasant said...

Ditto Alex - back in the day FAWTAS was my favorite track on the LP, and even now the crescendos and vocal trade-offs are as thrilling as the first time I heard it.