Saturday, 4 August 2018

Elvis Costello - Mighty Like A Rose


Released May 1991

Elvis Costello's two previous solo albums (without The Attractions) had been largely folk/country/Irish music/acoustic affairs. Both were excellent (the country-ish "King Of America" and the Irish/folky "Spike"). Here. however, he was back with a really rock-influenced sound - big, booming, bassy production, with powerful drums. Like The Attractions with a punchier, fuller sound. Some commentators I have read find this an impenetrable, difficult album to appreciate. Not so me. I love it. It is less sprawling and disconnected than "Spike" and has a far better sound, in my opinion. This is one of Costello's warmest, bassiest-sounding albums, which, for me is always good to hear. Parts of "Spike" were quite tinny in comparison. Image-wise, his shaggy beard and dull garb were questionable, however.


1. The Other Side Of Summer
2. Hurry Down Doomsday (The Bugs Are Taking Over)
3. How To Be Dumb
4. All Grown Up
5. Invasion Hit Parade
6. Harpies Bizarre
7. After The Fall
8. Georgie And Her Rival
9. So Like Candy
10. Couldn't Call It Unexpected No. 2
11. Playboy To A Man
12. Sweet Pear
13. Broken
14. Couldn't Call It Unexpected No. 4

The opener, the lively, exhilarating "The Other Side Of Summer" has some Beach Boys-style harmonies over a thumping beat and some Attractions-influenced piano parts at the end. "Hurry Down Doomsday (The Bugs Are Taking Over)" is a staccato, shuffling, funky, rhythmic drum-driven groove that is quite hypnotic, and with its bizarre lyrics it is like nothing Costello had ever done before. The guitar and bass sound is excellent on it.

Elvis is quite wound up and stressed over a few things on here, though, and he beautifully spits out his venom on the marvellous "How To Be Dumb", which I dedicate to many of the idiot bosses I had the misfortunate to work for over the years. Listen to the lyrics, it is ideal for that sort of thing. I am not sure who Costello's target was, but it sure works. "All Grown Up" is another cynical song, with a sort of Irish pub at closing time, singalong chorus, another rumbling bass line and some vibrant horns and clunking piano. These are some seriously great tracks. "Invasion Hit Parade" is a grandiose, piano and horn that sounds a bit like the musical experimentation used on parts of the "Imperial Bedroom" album from nearly ten years earlier. "Playing their Doors records and pretending to be stoned.." is a great line. Musically, is is very adventurous and exciting to listen to hear. All sorts of sounds in there. For me, this is some of Costello's best material for years.

"Harpies Bizarre" is my favourite track on the album. Lots of Attractions vibes, plus some excellent woodwind bits, appealing orchestration and Costello's great lyrics and delivery. One of his best ever tracks. I am a bass addict, used melodically within a song,  and I love the bass lines on this song. "After The Fall" is a tender, beautifully sung slow song, featuring just Costello, a guitar, and some background strings. "Georgie And Her Rival" is an invigorating, upbeat Attractions-esque song. It is another one with an instant appeal. Very catchy. This is Elvis Costello at his very best. I love the line "It was half-past February...".

"So Like Candy" is such an atmospheric slow number, featuring some excellent twangy Duane Eddy-style guitar in places and, yet again, some big, thumping speaker-shaking bass. All fine by me. "Playboy To a Man" is a raucous collaboration with Paul McCartney that has a strange sound to it, the volume fading in and out. Odd production that sort of spoils the experience a bit. "Sweet Pear" is back to normal for an intense, guitar-driven rather solemn song. The next one, "Broken" is a mournful, bleak and short number on which to almost end the album  (apart from the jaunty, brassy "Couldn't Call It Unexpected No.4" which follows). Overall, though, it is one of my favourite Costello albums, but it is certainly true that the better material is up to and including "Georgie And Her Rival".


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