Notre Dame Observer, February 28, 1989

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Spike

Elvis Costello

Kevin Walsh

Spike's unusual cast of characters shows Elvis' incredible diversity.

If you put all the characters on Elvis Costello's new album Spike in one room, you'd probably have a riot on your hands. At the very least, you'd have a roomful of weird people.

You'd have the disillusioned entertainer of "This Town"; Bentley and Craig, the two convicted murderers from "Let Him Dangle"; Veronica, a senile old lady; and a dead priest, now working as God's court jester in "God's Comic." (Not to mention a God who wonders if he "should have given the world to the monkeys.")

The room would also contain a mail-order bride and her new husband; a husband who knows his wife is cheating on him; Miss MacBeth, an old witch who terrorizes little kids in a neighborhood; a British soldier questioning his duty in Ireland; and a little boy whose father is leaving.

If you added in all the musicians who helped out on the album, including Paul McCartney, Chrissy Hynde, Roger McGuinn, and T-Bone Burnett, you'd have a really noisy room.

So if this United Nations of a cast doesn't already clue you in to this, Spike is an incredible demonstration of Elvis's diversity. His now classic early work was straight ahead rock and roll, but Spike combines musical styles as diverse as Irish folk music, torch songs, swing/jazz, and plain old classic rock and pop.

"Veronica," the single off the album, is a good starting place for the next volume of the popular Elvis Costello's Greatest Hits. A solid, driving pop song, co-written and performed with McCartney, this song sports a great melodic line and tight harmonies. Other notable songs include "This Town," another great song in the more pop vein; "Pads, Paws, and Claws," a pseudo-rockabilly workout; and the instrumental "Stalin Malone."

With Spike, Elvis Costello renews his artistic license and matures into all the promise that his early work hinted at. It is a cohesive, ambitious and mature work that ranks with the best he's ever done.

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The Observer, October 6, 1978


Kevin Walsh reviews Spike and Roy Orbison's Mystery Girl.

Images


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Clippings.


Mystery Girl

Roy Orbison

Kevin Walsh

New release brings that classic Orbison sound into the Eighties.

There's always been something essentially weird about Roy Orbison. The black clothes, the sunglasses, the cheesy toupee. The fact that Letterman could dress Larry "Bud" Melman up to look just like him.

Then there's the ghostly voice and the heartbreaking songs. Anybody who saw the movie Blue Velvet will never forget the dark aura his song "In Dreams" created.

In the grand traditions of great comeback albums, Mystery Girl takes Orbison's classic style, his sound and his voice and places them all in an Eighties context. This is not revivalism, it's an update. Even the song titles sound similar: "Blue Bayou" into "California Blue," "Dream Baby" into "Dream You," and "Only The Lonely" becomes "The Only One."

Similarly, the music purposely mimics many of Orbison's old songs. There's the almost-spoken intro, the classic booming snare keeping the backbeat, and the woo-woo backing vocals.

"In the Real World," is probably the most effective song on the album. With his voice shaking into the upper registers, he sings a genuinely beautiful and horribly sad song, including the line "In the real world we must say real goodbyes." It really works well.

The two songs which are drawing the most attention on the album are the ones written by Bono and Elvis Costello. Bono's "She's A Mystery To Me" is surprisingly Orbison-like, but the biblical imagery and sneaky hook reveal it as a U2 song.

Elvis Costello, who owes a more obvious musical debt to Orbison, turns in "The Comedians," a story about a guy who is trapped at the top of a Ferris wheel while his girlfriend runs off with the operator. It has some great lyrics, including the chorus line "I should be drinking a toast to absent friends instead of these comedians."

Mystery Girl proves Orbison to be a real, vital talent and it's a real tragedy that his untimely death cut a promising comeback short.


1989-02-28 Notre Dame Observer page 12.jpg
Page scan.

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