Commute Music of the Week 3/28/14-Elvis Costello “London’s Brilliant Parade”

This song is from the Elvis Costello album Brutal Youth, which I believe is the last album that ever featured the original Attractions line up with Bruce Thomas on bass.    It’s probably the last Costello album I really enjoyed from start to finish.

I’ve loved Elvis Costello from the early days and he’s one of the artists that both my husband and I adore.   Along with the Ramones, Clash and The Talking Heads,  his songs framed a good part of my late teens and into college.   His songwriting is wonderful  and he has a turn of phrase that is just brilliant and precise.   Set against the framework of the melodies. they are perfect examples of a solid singer/ songwriter at work, albeit at times a very dark and sarcastic one.

For me much of the appeal of the early albums and Brutal Youth, is the bass playing of Bruce Thomas.   Along with Graham Maby (Joe Jackson), Bruce Thomas is one of the most underrated bass players of that musical time period.  Coming out of the pub rock scene, and heavily influenced by Motown and Stax, his bass lines are complex and almost counter-intuitive; they remind me of what James Jamerson brought to the table in the Funk Brothers.   The animosity between Thomas and Elvis Costello is legendary; (producer Nick Lowe describes beer bottles being thrown at heads during recording sessions), but that tension resulted in some amazing music, which I don’t think could have been ever produced by another line up.

This  song came on during my commute in the rain on Friday; it seemed to fit the moment like a perfect soundtrack as I headed home for the week.  I love Bruce Thomas’ bass line in this song and the tone is round and warm.  The song itself is classic Elvis Costello with all the right touches from Steve Nieve on keyboards.   It has a dreamlike quality that drifts lyric wise into more dark territories, a reality that pretends to be something it never was, or will be.   Costello’s voice is perfect in its intonation and vibrato at just the right times, stretching out the notes in regret and a touch of sardonic irony

But in the end its Bruce Thomas’s bass engine behind this song that makes me return again and again to “London’s Brilliant Parade.”


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