Monday, September 4, 2017

Incompetent/Can't: I Can't Stand Up

purchase [Get Happy]

There was a time - about 20 years back - when Elvis Costello and Talking Heads were what I mostly listened to. Both kind of quirky (as opposed to mainstream pop), but both very much in favor with the college-type crowd (which I had long since graduated from - but maybe couldn't leave behind?).

I'm pretty sure that among the things that attracted me to both were (a) the slightly-off the standard I-IV-V chord structures of their songs and (b) the near-poetic lyrics - enough that the words frequently caused me to take a minute or more to ponder their relevance to my current frame of mind. Oh, yes, and neither appeared terribly normal in the MTV videos I saw.

Now, at about the time that <Get Happy> (the album containing Can't) was released, Costello was in hot water on account of his multiple uses of "the n word". He had drunkenly referred to Ray Charles as such, and his "Lover's Army" includes lyrics to the effect "one less white ..n.".
As a result, there are those who believe that his choice of "I Can't.." is a form of either apology or appeasement - because the song comes from the legendary Sam and Dave, who recorded it in a rather slower, more soulful tenor back in the mid 60s.

As for Costello, this song stands in contrast to his earlier dark, angry, vengeful style: granted, the pace - as compared to Same and Dave's slower soul - still rubs a bit the wrong way (also see his dis-jointed dancing on the vid), but you can almost sense that Costello is onto something new, and in fact, from here, it lead to a breakthrough in his career (and puts his racial slur gaffe more or less behind him)

We've got the "Can't" covered pretty well just in the title itself. But how about the "Incompetence"? Well, there's no requirement in SMM's current theme that any single post cover both terms - and in fact they do appear to be linked - if you're incompetent, you can't ... something. But, is there something about Costello or the song that encompasses <Incompetent> as well?
Judging from where Costello went from after this output, I would say: no sign of incompetence on his part.
Your thoughts?

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