I love the sound of breaking glass / especially when I’m lonely

The mail bought a bunch of things this last week (but not the AK79 t shirt that Warn­ers had promised me sad­ly). There were the nor­mal bills and bank state­ments of course, a cou­ple or three mag­a­zines, the lat­est kiwi hit discs, and a bunch of CDs.

Amongst the lat­ter were two I was real­ly were hang­ing out to hear (in Bali, unless you are want­i­ng six month old main­stream releas­es from the majors, or poor pirat­ed copies of pomp rock or R&B pop, you have to rely on Indone­sia Post, who are quite effi­cient and cer­tain­ly far more hon­est than their Aus­tralian equiv­a­lent from expe­ri­ence), the Tou­s­saint / Costel­lo col­lab­o­ra­tion; and the album from Matt Edward’s alter ego Rekid on Soul Jazz. Both I assume could cor­rect­ly be described as cur­rent releas­es but both could also just as accu­rate­ly be described as light years apart.

Whilst the Costello album (and despite the cov­er cred­it it is more or less just that, but I’ll get to that lat­er) and the Rekid album are both new releas­es by cur­rent record­ing acts, one to me sad­ly reflects an artist per­ceived to be, right­ly or wrong­ly, in some­thing of a decline … and god, its hard to say that when I’ve been such an unques­tion­ing fan … whilst the oth­er is indica­tive of some­one with some­thing fresh and vague­ly rev­o­lu­tion­ary to say. The irony in this of course is that Matt Edwards is Elvis Costel­lo twen­ty five years ago. My father once said to me that you don’t real­ly under­stand time until you get old­er, and, as with so much my father said to me when I was a dis­be­liev­ing bul­let-proof teen, so it is. Thus, for me its some­thing of a thing to wit­ness the young angry man as the elder states­man of trad, just as it is to see Paul McCart­ney, the same young eager face I thought was so cool peer­ing out from the cov­er of his first solo album when I bought it from the PDC in Palmer­ston North on release (I still have the same much loved copy), turn­ing 64, an age I’m clos­er to now than I want to think about (although not that close yet).

I real­ly like the Costel­lo record a lot with some major reser­va­tions. I like, no, that’s not fair, love about five songs, am ambiva­lent about five and seri­ous­ly dis­like three. The ones I dis­like, I do so for one sim­ple rea­son, I real­ly hate songs that try too hard to “rock out” and sad­ly Elvis’ attempts to “rock” in recent years have sound­ed increas­ing­ly post Amer­i­cana try-hard, some­thing I put down to too many Lit­tle Feat and Rob­bie Robert­son records in his youth, although he didn’t real­ly suf­fer from the blight until the nineties. That’s the first prob­lem. The sec­ond one I have is with the pro­duc­tion. Where is the econ­o­my? There are things that some­one need­ed to have the balls to say to Elvis: no, that doesn’t work, your voice doesn’t suit this one; but I get the feel­ing he is some­thing of an auto­crat in the behind the desk and per­haps Joe Hen­ry is not the man to stand up to him. To me it sounds wool­ly and in-con­cise; there is at times a lack of def­i­n­i­tion. Costel­lo records used to be the sharpest on the block. Where is Nick Lowe when you need him.

The third prob­lem is the over­shad­ow­ing of Tou­s­saint. Now, I know this start­ed life as Costel­lo’s album of AT songs and grew from there, but it is co-cred­it­ed now as being by both artists and clear­ly a song like Inter­na­tion­al Echo could’ve been saved from its cur­rent noth­ing­ness by the rich rolling, some­what more gen­tle, tones of Mr Tou­s­saint. The same could be said for Six Fin­gered Man, which is so obvi­ous­ly cry­ing out for his voice. I mean, it’s not a bad song, just a lit­tle work­man and plod­ding and it didn’t have to be. Instead, Elvis dom­i­nates with Tou­s­saint only get­ting a vocal look-in on one track, instead being rel­e­gat­ed to almost a side­man sta­tus, and the front sleeve almost has a look of “look which leg­end I man­aged get to pose with for the cov­er” feel about it.

So, moans aside, there are enough tru­ly love­ly tracks here­in to make it worth the jour­ney. The title track is clas­sic Costel­lo, and is lift­ed by the won­drous­ly woe­ful horns on the pre and post cho­rus. The Sharpest Thorn like­wise is a bar­room bal­lad that suits Elvis’ rather unique voice so well, and I love the way it drunk­en­ly rolls into a New Orleans street feel for the last half. But the best are the beau­ti­ful­ly plain­tiff and del­i­cate take of Near­er to You and the mag­nif­i­cent cov­er of one of my favourite Tou­s­saint songs, All These Things done so defin­i­tive­ly in the past by not one, but two Nevilles, Art and Aaron, which in itself is pret­ty daunt­ing for any­one. Tack­ling a song like this must either speak of Elvis’ courage or his ego, I don’t know which. But he pulls it off and makes it his own, or at least the equal of those mighty ver­sions. Very very cool and worth the price of admis­sion.

So on to the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion. As I said ear­li­er, Matt Edwards is Elvis, or Howard Devo­to, or Jah Wob­ble or who­ev­er, two gen­er­a­tions on. He’s the guy (or one of them) mak­ing the records that oth­ers are going la la over. He’s the guy push­ing the prover­bial bound­aries and boy, is he doing it so well. I love Made In Menor­ca a lot. Its one of those records that makes you stop and take a breath, go “what the fuck is this”. But it exists in its time too, pulling togeth­er so many strands, so many his­tor­i­cal themes; to me it sounds like Can meets The Con­gos meets ear­ly Mar­shall Jef­fer­son with a splash of con­tem­po­rary tech­nol­o­gy thrown into the mix, and it’s a nice irony that he’s man­aged by Dave Dor­rell, ex of MARRS and all those won­der­ful mix­es with CJ Mac­in­tosh back in the day. Lis­ten to the syn­the­sised churn of Arp; the shim­mer­ing sex of Nite; the glo­ri­ous stut­ter­ing wash­es of Lost Star 6; and the grind­ing dubbed out funk of the huge 85 Space, which feels like you are lis­ten­ing to it spin­ning around and around in some mas­sive room in, I guess, Menor­ca.

It’s a record that makes you want to scream out HOW FUCKING GOOD IS THIS? And I guess that’s what I’m doing here in my own small way.

Maybe he could pro­duce the next Costel­lo album…

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