I consider this album the bridge between Costello’s classic years and the more wide-ranging experimental work he did later in his career. And I guess the real surprise is that this album is now nearly 20 years old, and he’s recorded more albums since its release than he did beforehand.
It’s not the Elvis Costello Weekends that are moving quickly… it’s my whole life!
I count this album as one of Costello’s few disappointments. He seems to be more concerned with production than songcraft on these tracks, playing up the Beatles and Beach Boys touches and doing more with percussion than he had on his previous twelve records.
The best song on Mighty Like a Rose towers above everything else on it. ‘Couldn’t Call It Unexpected No. 4’ is one of my favorite Costello tunes ever, but I can’t feature it today because I’ve done so already on the blog. The album is worth owning for that song alone.
Today’s selection is the opening track, ‘The Other Side of Summer,’ on which those Beach Boys touches are extremely obvious. I remember keeping MTV on in the background for days when this album first came out hoping to catch the video for this song. I did one or two times, and was treated to the sight of Costello almost double his usual size and wearing a comically thick beard.
And I felt glad in my own suspicious way
Despite the contradiction and confusion
Felt tragic without reason
There’s malice and there’s magic in every season
From the foaming breakers of the poisonous surf
The other side of Summer
To the burning forests in the hills of Astroturf
The other side of Summer
The automatic gates close up between the shanties and the palace
The blowtorch amusements, the voodoo chalice
The pale pathetic promises that everybody swallows
A teenage girl is crying ‘cos she don’t look like a million dollars
So help her if you can
‘Cos she don’t seem to have the attention span
Was it a millionaire who said “imagine no possessions”?
A poor little schoolboy who said “we don’t need no lessons”?
The rabid rebel dogs ransack the shampoo shop
The pop princess is downtown shooting up
And if that goddess is fit for burning
The sun will struggle up the world will still keep turning
Madman standing by the side of the road saying
“Look at my eyes, look at my eyes, look at my eyes, look at my eyes”
Now you can’t afford to fake all the drugs your parents used to take
Because of their mistakes you’d better be wide awake
The mightiest rose
The absence of perfume
The casual killers
The military curfew
The cardboard city
An unwanted birthday
The other side of summer
The dancing was desperate, the music was worse
They bury your dreams and dig up the worthless
And kiss “goodbye” to the earth