Friday, July 11, 2008

Elvis Costello 12: Blood & Chocolate

A mere six months after the release of King Of America, Elvis returned with both the Attractions and old producer pal Nick Lowe on an album full of the same snotty punk that critics had been asking for since This Year’s Model. But by this time, neither his US nor UK record label knew what to do with him, so Blood & Chocolate was all but ignored. Not for lack of trying on Elvis’s part; he promoted both of the year’s albums with an ambitious tour, playing several nights in select cities, alternating performances with the Attractions, a variety of Confederates, acoustic sets, special guests and even a request night involving a spinning wheel normally seen in the company of Vanna White.
The album itself should have made lots of people happy. The Attractions fire on all cylinders from the get-go: “Uncomplicated” pounds the album title into your brain; “I Hope You’re Happy Now” and “Next Time Round” are biting kiss-offs; “Tokyo Storm Warning” is a surreal Dylanesque travelogue; and “Poor Napoleon” is a bedroom tale awash in feedback and white noise. “Blue Chair” and “Crimes Of Paris” evolved from earlier attempts with the Confederates. But while there are some quieter moments, they don’t exactly provide relief. “Battered Old Bird” is a childhood snapshot of a dysfunctional household. “Home Is Anywhere You Hang Your Head” is the breathy tale of a certain unsavory character named Mr. Misery. And the six-minute nightmare within “I Want You” would provide a theme song for stalkers for years to come.
Since its initial release, Blood & Chocolate has been something of a totem for fans, being the last Attractions album for ten years and the last “loud” album for even longer. As the finale to Rykodisc’s reissue campaign, their version of the CD included a handful of single sides (two of which dated from the King Of America sessions) and one unreleased track, plus a bonus disc consisting of an interview about his career for Record Collector magazine. Rhino ignored the interview, took four of the bonus tracks, and added a few other alternate takes alongside an odd sequence of acoustic demos of country covers, three of which he’d record again one day.

Elvis Costello & The Attractions Blood & Chocolate (1986)—5
1995 Rykodisc: same as 1986, plus 7 extra tracks (plus bonus interview disc)
2002 Rhino: same as 1986, plus 15 extra tracks

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