Melody Maker, January 31, 1987

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Melody Maker

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Elvis Costello And The Attractions

Royal Albert Hall, London

David Stubbs

The distant commotion of Costello and the Attractions live had me in two minds!

ADULATORY: The big wheel spins, Elvis remains at the hub. Perfectly balanced, he barely casts a shadow, perfectly circumspect, he's fully cogniscent of the length and breadth of rock experience, it's then and now. He's a funnel of love for those of us who still choose to live or remember that experience. He's an ombudsman for our disgust. His unmatched strength of will enables him to straddle the vagaries of our increasingly disparate consciousness, pull us together under a generous canvas of relentless excellence, cut through the signals and touch!

ANGRY: What most irks me about Costello? His gallingly smug obsession with the white stripes down the middle of rock's road, perhaps? Lumps of Dylan ("Pump It Up"), The Stones, The Beatles, "Wild Thing," The Who, even Abba ("Knowing Me, Knowing You," Costello in a nutshell)!

All these are shoved through the cheery, leaden funnel of Costello's mound, to emerge finally as pub Bowie, sub-Motown Vapors. But mostly, it's those SPECTACLES — outsize, quite as gogglingly obtrusive as Residents' eyeballs, they signify his unendingly benign surveillance of us. Set in a rut of endless explanation, he's desperate to pull us together into a REASONABLE ROCK COMMUNITY, plodding out an eternal 1978!

ADULATORY: Above all, Costello is a consummate entertainer. The pretzel irony of the Spinning Songwheel is curiously meant. He's compulsive theatre, displaying, especially in the mature material from Blood And Chocolate a sense of drama (attack, sustain, delay) that the likes of Mantronix can only match by means of sampling and techno-trickery.

Elvis can, and must, play! When he sings "I Want You" (Costello in a nutshell!) his voice is resonant, transparent like wind blowing brokenly over a bottle, empty for want of the milk of human kindness! Untouchably touching.

ANGRY: Out of a strange disgust with humanity, other songwriters — Roy Harper! — have had the bravery to remain embittered, peripheral. Not Costello. Desperately afraid of solitude, not given to intemperateness, idiosyncrasy or abandon, on "Always Xmas ...," he'll happily suppress the trance induced by a promising moment of fretboard meandering, signalling by means of self-effacing buffooners that he's still with us! Don't go away! I'll record 10 more albums of the same, honestly! I won't weird out on you! "I Wanna Be Loved"!? Costello in a nutshell!

ADULATORY: "Shipbuilding," wrenched acoustically tonight, is a masterly, understated indictment, a slow and painful delivery of truth teased into daylight by a series of half-formed, peripheral observations.

ANGRY: The words!? They spray from his mouth like his spittle, and fall well short of impact. In fact, if it weren't for his almost cloying exhibition of passion. I'd swear this was deliberate obfuscation! I mean, "It is always Christmas / In the cupboard / At the top of the stairs!?" Yeah, spot on, Ely! It is always St David's day in the rabbit hutch at the bottom of our garden!

ADULATORY: Steve Nieve's tangental tang of organ, a powerhouse "Accidents Will Happen" scattering the dust, among others. Thousands will bear me out. Elvis played a blinder!

ANGRY: To which I was blind.

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Melody Maker, January 31, 1987


David Stubbs reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Saturday, January 24, 1987, Royal Albert Hall, London, England.

Images

1987-01-31 Melody Maker clipping.jpg
Clipping.

1987-01-31 Melody Maker cover.jpg
Cover.

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