This one represents sort of an accidental double-dip between this (weird) series and the Bins Project (e.g. the stuff titled, “One Last Pick thru the Bins,” etc.). I have a couple artists (and it might be two, literally) for whom I made personal, “best of” CDs and Elvis Costello was one of them. I guess I worried that I’d forget some of the side stuff unless I burned it into a CD…
…happily, I have a pretty clear idea about what I’m gonna do when I actually reach Costello’s volume on the Bins Project, and that should take care of the potential overlap. At any rate…
I fell ass-over-head-in-love with Costello at some point during high school; friends with more intact memories can probably tell you when this happened, but I can’t. He’s one of those artists – and these are less rare than one might think – who doesn’t so much defy classification, as he doesn’t fit any genre with ease. At least not outside “rock,” that’s broad to the point of being meaningless. I think that’s a pretty smart lure for people like me. (“What’s he write?” “Oh, music, I guess.”)
If you know Costello at all, I’m pretty sure (and, yes, just confirmed) that everything in this collection comes before 1986’s Blood & Chocolate. This is early stuff basically…and that’s why you won’t see overlap later. With that, below are some, but not all, of my favorite songs by Elvis Costello. Hope this gives fans of the man a nice trip down memory lane, and hope this serves as an appetizer for a huge main course for anyone who’s never heard him before (i.e., he's still making music, and fucking evolving, too).
The Toast of Elvis Costello
The slippery, playful lyrics, the bubbling bass, plus a personal meaning that I’ll forever hide.
One of your smarter songs about regret…and how they happen.
More regret…sensing a theme. And delusion. Also, pretty tune. Always rated Trust pretty highly.
4. Watching the Detectives (Live)
A song as good story, and I’m partial to the live version…he seems more excited there.
If this means what I think it means, even more awesome…
6. Riot Act
Relationships, and the awful things one can get away within them. (And a different, rawer version.)
A “fuck you” polka party. Pretty much to all of England. Nice.
8. Tiny Steps
Never understood the meaning. It’s probably bullshit, but weirdly terrified of it.
Love the repeated heavy organ/bass/drum drop. The man likes talking about the unattainable.
10. Strict Time
He sings nicely over the rhythm on this one, going fast to slow. And the rhythm’s fast…
11. Less Than Zero
Nice, sleazy tale told over a super-smooth garage/blues sound.
12. High Fidelity
I just heard this one late, on some re-release. Made me feel like I missed out.
13. The Loved Ones
About ostracism, maybe? Maybe it’s just the twinkling keys that takes me in?
13. Watch Your Step
Trust leaned SUPER hard into the gangster/gambling hall theme. The “standing O” thereto. (And, super cool version of the same!)
Heartbreaking. The song the upper Midwest doesn’t even know it needs to hear.
He could rock, guys. Geez, just gimme this.
17. New Amsterdam
Cutest damn song/video (see above) known to man. Because it doesn’t come off. And he knows it.
And that’s it. Can’t wait to listen to Elvis Costello for, oh, the next week.