Elvis Costello and the Attractions – Live at the El Mocambo Elvis Costello and the Attractions – Live at the El Mocambo

Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Live at the El Mocambo

Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Live at the El Mocambo

I never understood how people unhesitatingly lump Elvis Costello with the first punk movement. Sure he’s got the attitude and maybe even some of the politics, but the music? I mean, the guy only has one album that’s even close to punk (1978’s This Year’s Model), and that one’s hyper-kinetic pop at best. But their early live album from 1978, Live at the El Mocambo, which gets a Hip-O Records rerelease this year after only existing as a bootleg or rare collector’s item, just might settle the punk question. The Attractions are insane live.
Recorded at a show about one week before the official release of Elvis’s sophomore album This Year’s Model, El Mocambo finds the Attractions beating the hell out of their songs, foregoing the tightly-wound structures and melodic subtleties found on record for straight panic. “Radio Radio” and “You Belong to Me” become honest-to-God punk rave-ups, and “The Beat” loses its awkward new wave plodding in favor of a kind of sneering confidence once kicked into high gear. “Lipstick Vogue,” which is already the fastest Attractions song on record, is furious and blistering in this set, its bridge getting an unhinged and chaotic reworking that includes a tense bass climb-up that works the crowd into a tizzy until it all topples over, leaving only Bruce Thomas’s maddening floor tom rolls to keep the paranoia moving. These guys know how to work a crowd.
The lows of this record can almost entirely be attributed to the instances where the Attractions break away from their own songs structures. For one of the most deliberate and meticulous bands on record, the Attractions are pretty lame and aimless when they don’t stick to the script. The individual parts of “I Don’t Want to (Go to Chelsea)” get toyed around with and taken in and out seemingly at random to the point where the song sounds like it was just learned during sound check. “Watching the Detectives,” which totally rules on record, gets the same unfortunate treatment, and the otherwise taut and eerie song gets a limp performance as a result.
Aside from these few missteps, the Attractions circa 1978 are borderline suicidal live. There’s a really beautiful moment in the middle of the set when Elvis barks to the crowd, “These guys got the right idea, they’re standin’ UP!” Sure, all of his painstakingly clever lyrics get lost in the fray, but the guy knows what really counts when you’re playing to a crowd of drunk Canadians: speed and volume.

Track Listing:
1. Mystery Dance
2. Waiting for the End of the World
3. Welcome to the Working Week
4. Less Than Zero
5. Beat
6. Lip Service
7. (I Don’t Want to Go To) Chelsea
8. Little Triggers
9. Radio Radio
10. Lipstick Vogue
11. Watching the Detectives
12. Miracle Man
13. You Belong to Me
14. Pump It Up

Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Live at the El Mocambo, reviewed by Squeri on 2009-12-22T13:23:03-08:00 rating 3.8 out of 5

Comments are closed.