Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Albums for Life: 17: Elvis Costello: King of America

I'll build a bonfire of my dreams 
And burn a broken effigy of me and you

It was either this or 1982's bucolic 'Imperial Bedroom', which followed the pure country of 1981's 'Almost Blue'. IB is a lyricist's delight, full of brilliant bile; copious quotable couplets. For King of America EC wandered back into the world of 'Americana'.  He'd already earned his spurs in that genre to be honest; ironic that the backing band for his New Wave debut 'My Aim is True' was the West Coast soft rockers Clover, the type of band that had the punks spitting feathers in the late 70s. I saw them at Blackburn Town Hall at the time, supporting Lynyrd Skynyrd and they were blandtastic; even for me.
In the mid 80s Elvis fell out with The Attractions' bass player Bruce Thomas, eventually leading to him splitting the band.

He toured solo in the States and brushed shoulders with T-Bone Burnette with whom he shared the bill. Elvis relocated in LA at Ocean Way studios with T- Bone as the producer, who assembled a crew of top notch session players, notably the TCB Band who had backed the other Elvis in the 70s. There's a country twang for sure, but also intimacy in the brushed drums and upright bass backing. Much admired for his 'voice like a can opener' I always preferred Elvis when he stopped shouting at me and crooned, and there is some great singing here, particularly on 'American Without Tears', 'Brilliant Mistake' and 'Indoor Fireworks'.
'Sleep of the Just' still knocks me sidewards.
This was probably the last great Costello album; for me his most intimate, engaging and compelling.


  1. I was never that big a fan but this was great - a totally agree with the tracks you pull out. Even more amazing in that in the same year he released the just as good but the polar opposite Blood and Chocolate

  2. I was just listening to this last week in between homework for my Top 102⁺. Great record full of great songs. Is definitely in his top layer of work and one of his last great albums, although I'd argue that Blood and Chocolate, which came out in a withering blast six months after this, belongs on that list. Uncomplicated, Tokyo Storm Warning, I Want You...
    I'll probably go for an earlier one. This Years Model; Armed Forces; Imperial Bedroom; Trust; Get Happy..
    Another of those complicated men of Irish descent who ruled the English popular music roost at one point in time.

  3. I agree seamus i can never really decide which i like best this or blood and chocolate

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