Monday, 1 October 2018
Elvis Costello & The Attractions - Blood And Chocolate (1986)
Released September 1986
Recorded in London
This was the last album in "phase one" of Elvis Costello and the Attractions' recording career, the final one after eight years of superb releases. Relations between the band were strained after non-stop touring and recording over that breakneck punk/new wave period and they recorded this album all in different rooms, listening to each other's contributions on monitors but playing in isolation. This was supposedly to get a "live" feeling in the recording, and indeed they played at stage volume (you can tell, it is a loud album), but also the fact they couldn't stand the sight of each other was helped by this set-up. The sound is nowhere near as good as on 1984's "Goodbye Cruel World" or earlier in 1986's "King Of America", it is much more crashing.
The first two tracks are deafeningly loud - the grinding, throaty "Uncomplicated" and the frantic, vintage Attractions swirl of "I Hope You're Happy Now". A lot of people do not like the lengthy, one-paced, wordy "Tokyo Storm Warning", but I have always quite liked it. It is crammed full of images and perplexing references. "Home Is Anywhere You Hang Your Head" is an organ-driven soulful classic Costello mid-pace number, with its lyrical hooks and typical Costello vocal.
"I Want You" is an absolutely magnificent piece of paranoid jealousy put to music, in an insistent, acoustic ballad form that has a bitter, vitriolic Costello spitting out his invective against a lover who has left him for another. It is one of the great "anti-love songs" of all time. "Honey Are You Straight Or Are You Blind" is a straight ahead bluesy Costello rocker. "Blue Chair" is less confrontational, more melodic and catchy in that Stax/Motown-influenced "Get Happy!" sort of way. It is a great track. Always been a favourite of mine.
Another superb cut is the evocative and slowly building, dramatic "Battered Old Bird". To this day, I have no idea what is about, but it sounds full of conviction. Costello's vocal is excellent on this. "Crimes Of Paris" is an upbeat and instantly hooky number that would have made a good single, but wasn't one. "Poor Napoleon" is sort of buried in swirling keyboards before another top notch vocal finds its way through. "Next Time Round" ends proceedings with a raucous piece of mid-pace rock of the sort that characterised the beginning and end of the album so dominantly. Costello had spat out the lyrics and thrashed out the chords on this album, which is a bit of a cold one, emotionally, it has to be said. There is a nastiness to a lot of the lyrics.
Despite that, you can't really tell that all was not well with The Attractions on this outing. It sounds upbeat, energetic and powerful. A genuine Costello "rock" album. They would not record together for another eight years.
- October 01, 2018