SONG TITLE: PARTY GIRL
PERFORMER: ELVIS COSTELLO
SONGWRITER: ELVIS COSTELLO
YEAR OF RELEASE: 1978
COMMENTS: Now this is a power ballad. This plea of frustration to a self-destructive girlfriend starts as a ballad, but the torque of the arrangement and the depth of the emotions propel this way past feeling like a slow song. The erudition and formal technical skill in the words, tune and arrangement sound not like new wave/punk but more like the singer/songwriters.
However, the depth of the hurt feelings and the directness - the soul - sound much more like maybe Otis Redding singing "I've Been Loving You Too Long." It is textbook example of pop songcraft from the hooks to the development and the climax. Rodgers and Hart or any other Broadway songwriter would have been proud to have composed such a technical gem, but by the time he is working up the deep pulse of "Don't want to lock you up and say you're mine, don't want to lose you or say good-bye" he's way past the contemplative sigh of Randy Newman or Paul Simon. The beat becomes very visceral, enough to make you physically sway to the throbbing cadence of his plea.
Some significant part of the raw power of this recording must be given to the Attractions, particularly the bass player. Elvis' classic backing band were at the peak of their expressive powers and teamwork. They were at the stage where they had been together long enough to have perfected their chemistry, but not yet long enough to have grown impatient with one another's neuroses.
Bruce Thomas here gives one of the half dozen best bass performances of his career. It is almost a whole countermelody to the primary vocal tune. Paul Mc-freaking-Cartney himself could not have played a more beautifully melodic bass line. He does this while still giving the track its powerful rhythmic dynamics. Check out for example the two big swooping bass notes immediately after each pronunciation of the title.
Finally, note how much of the power of this song is in the restraint. You can best tell how deep the emotions of the song are by feeling the strain in the tune and the performance of the narrator pulling back the reins. Feel how hard he is fighting to keep control and hold back. Michael Bolton, are paying attention?
Elvis Costello Is King
Music Sustains the Soul
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