Adam Franklin’s recommendation: “In 1979 you could get hold of a button badge that read: Blondie Is A Group. There wasn’t a button badge that read Elvis Costello & The Attractions Is A Group but Elvis’ third album Armed Forces was the first one to credit his band on the sleeve.
I remember buying the seven inch of Oliver’s Army on my lunchbreak at school and I didn’t pick up on the fact that Steve Nieve’s piano was mimmicking Benny Andersson’s runs on Dancing Queen by ABBA. Elvis and his cronies had apparently also been immersing themselves in Krautrock and amphetamines while on tour in the US the year before and these elements all influenced their new album.
Nick Lowe’s production on the album is a minor miracle and the playing is exquisite throughout. Elvis Costello & the Attractions really IS a band! It’s the perfect marriage of an angry but eloquent singer songwriter with a flexible group who could really lock it down Muscle Shoals style or kick ass and rock out when they needed to. The band plays as one organism, tightly coiled and are so flexible, they’re almost double-jointed at times.
Elvis has said that he felt like he and drummer Pete Thomas were the rhythm section as keyboardist Steve Nieve and bass player Bruce Thomas would embark on crazy runs and textured arpeggios all over the place, criss-crossing stages right and left. Apart from the occasional dissonant spy guitar or twangy psychedelicised tremelo chord, Elvis is mainly just playing simple, slightly distorted chords on his Fender Jazzmaster and he’s really the anchor.
As a burgeoning guitar player though it was Bruce Thomas’ bass playing that I really latched on to – the way that at times he will be playing off Nieve’s keyboard lines or harmonizing with Costello’s vocal. Plenty of times of course he simply locks down low notes with Pete Thomas’ kick drum patterns but at others he’s actually the highest note in the whole spectrum – the descending run 25 seconds into the first verse of Party Girl being the primary example here.
I learned a hell of a lot about chord inversions from listening to Thomas’s parts on Costello’s songs and if part of my mind is forever in 1979 – and I think it might be – then Elvis Costello & the Attractions are firmly rooted in there.”
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More about the guest author, Adam Franklin: Franklin may be best known as the lead singer/songwriter for Swervedriver, but he also fronts the guitar-driven Bolts of Melody whose new album, I Could Sleep For A Thousand Years comes out on June 29 on Second Motion Records. Keep up with developments about the album and upcoming shows on the Melody Bolts website.