What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Pretty self-explanatory
when i was cruel
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What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby when i was cruel » Thu Jan 20, 2011 11:30 pm

I understand that he wrote the title in regards to what he thought the fate of the album would be but I am just curious about where it was written, how long, etc... pretty much a everything about ATUB board.
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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby Ypsilanti » Fri Jan 21, 2011 6:09 am

So I keep this fancy to myself
I keep my lipstick twisted tight

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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby cwr » Fri Jan 21, 2011 11:22 am

Ever since ATUB's release, Costello has always bristled at the suggestion that it was an album of songs he wrote for other artists, but he was the one who initially described it as that. I remember an interview he gave to ICE magazine where he described that his next album was going to be "the flip side of Kojak Variety." And a big chunk of the album is taken up by songs he either co-wrote with the likes of Aimee Mann and Paul McCartney, or songs he wrote for singers like June Tabor and Johnny Cash. I'm not sure why he went off the idea of focusing on that particular aspect, but it always struck me as sort of odd that he would get so annoyed when people would describe the record that way, given that it was the way he first described the record in the press...

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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby Jack of All Parades » Fri Jan 21, 2011 5:49 pm

Never could warm to this album- EC as hired pen. To this day still find a good deal of the material overwrought and overwritten. That said have always kept a soft spot for two songs on the extra disc-"Almost Ideal Eyes" and "My Dark Life" maybe as well the co-written outtakes done with McCartney. Otherwise rarely visit this record.
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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby wordnat » Sat Jan 22, 2011 5:07 pm

An EC LP that's "overwrought and overwritten"? That's like saying the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is "too busy"! :P

All kidding aside, ATUB is way up there on my EC list -- top 3 or 4 easily. The lazy comparison is with IB, of course, but I've always thought of it as perhaps the most successful of EC's ambitious (experimental?) sonic detours -- i.e., it towers over fellow fussed-over residents of EC's china cabinet such as WWIC, MLAR, or SPIKE in my opinion. "Poor Fractured Atlas" and "Little Atoms" are worth the price of admission for the lyrics alone....

And don't even get me started on the bonus disc: "My Dark Life"? OMG! :mrgreen:

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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby bronxapostle » Sat Jan 22, 2011 5:50 pm

definitely agree wordnat...in my top five on most days also!!! maybe i have a bigger affinity for it as i was at the beacon for the live rehearsals before they recorded it. kinda felt like i was in the band seeing them toss them around on stage for five nyc nights. really GREAT shows and the new songs were the glue, the highlights of each night.!!! was actually listening to a compilation cassette of my recordings with all the new songs only...quite the collection. i should transfer to cd and share it that way. what do you think doc: "FIVE '95 BEACON NIGHTS (ba style)! what a beautiful sound i got from that particular Sony.

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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby docinwestchester » Sat Jan 22, 2011 5:55 pm

bronxapostle wrote:definitely agree wordnat...in my top five on most days also!!! maybe i have a bigger affinity for it as i was at the beacon for the live rehearsals before they recorded it. kinda felt like i was in the band seeing them toss them around on stage for five nyc nights. really GREAT shows and the new songs were the glue, the highlights of each night.!!! was actually listening to a compilation cassette of my recordings with all the new songs only...quite the collection. i should transfer to cd and share it that way. what do you think doc: "FIVE '95 BEACON NIGHTS (ba style)! what a beautiful sound i got from that particular Sony.


Rack it and I'll upload it. Sounds very cool.

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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby Ypsilanti » Sat Jan 22, 2011 6:20 pm

wordnat wrote:An EC LP that's "overwrought and overwritten"? That's like saying the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is "too busy"! :P

All kidding aside, ATUB is way up there on my EC list -- top 3 or 4 easily. The lazy comparison is with IB, of course, but I've always thought of it as perhaps the most successful of EC's ambitious (experimental?) sonic detours -- i.e., it towers over fellow fussed-over residents of EC's china cabinet such as WWIC, MLAR, or SPIKE in my opinion. "Poor Fractured Atlas" and "Little Atoms" are worth the price of admission for the lyrics alone....

And don't even get me started on the bonus disc: "My Dark Life"? OMG! :mrgreen:


Nice post, Wordnat! :)
While ATUB isn't one of my most favorites, there are some amazing songs on there. Little Atoms is probably one of my top 5 of all time. So great. So delicious. Love the others you mention also. And the bonus disk? Wow! The first time I heard it was the most pleasurable and astounding EC listening experience I've ever had, with the possible exception of the very first time I ever heard EC at all. I'd like to give a special shout out to the totally awesome Herman's Hermits-esque version of "You Bowed Down" on the bonus disk. I much prefer it to the one on the album proper.

Don't really care if the songs were written with or for other people. Why is that even an issue?
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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby History History » Sat Jan 22, 2011 7:07 pm

the totally awesome Herman's Hermits-esque version of "You Bowed Down"


Wow! I've just given it a listen and you're right Ypsilanti- it could almost be Peter Noone singing! :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby alexv » Sat Jan 22, 2011 7:25 pm

Good question, Ypsi. Over the years it's been EC who has made it into an issue. I have a few guesses. One, he always likes to pre-empt possible criticisms of any new album. He knows there is a plausible argument to be made, and rather than becoming defensive about it, he attacks. So, at the time ATUB came out, one possible criticism could have been that it's a minor work, just an album of songs he wrote for other artists. That was in fact the lazy take on the album. Why would that kind of album be considered a minor effort? Think of the Wendy James set of songs. Some critics, while not exactly comparing ATUB to the James songs-for-hire deal, could have said that these songs, because they were meant for others, were not "true" EC songs.

EC, as you can see in the Wiki link you provided, beautifully attacks that argument bydenying the premise. He emphasizes how the songs are not inferior simply because they were meant for others. He had the "idealized" version of the songs when he wrote them (imagining Cash or Moore doing the songs), but the songs are his version of that ideal. So much for inferior. Clearly, when he wrote the songs for James he had no idealized version in mind, just contempt.

My second guess is that EC made it into an issue precisely because Cash and Moore, in particular, turned the songs down. EC has always been slightly prickly about big artists not doing his songs. In the Wiki piece he specifically addresses that, when he says that in the end it didn't matter that those two turned the songs down. It was enough that he had them in mind when composing them.

I think that he really wanted folks to focus on was the Meltdown connection. He says that what he originally wanted ATUB to be was a songwriter's compendium done in different voices. And that leads him to a comprehensive listing of all his Meltdown connections. He does his best in the liner notes to trace all kinds of work by him and by other artists to connections made at the Meltdown festival that he curated. He throws ATUB in that mix. His concern about the 'covers' interpretation may have had something to do with the fact that this would obscure the links to his curating role at Meltdown. He was very proud of that at the time.

I kind of like ATUB. Not great EC, but beats the heck out of a lot of the more recent stuff, NR and Momo excepted. Atlas, It's time, Starting to come to me, vanish, telescope and atoms are all terrific. Even the minor songs on the record are very melodic. I saw him do a lot of them when he appeared with Steve in NYC, I think it was just after the record was released, doing them in a cabaret where we are as close to the stage as we've ever been. It was magnificent.

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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby Poor Deportee » Sun Jan 23, 2011 1:13 am

Well, I've never quite understood the love for this album. While it's certainly not a dismal outling like WIWC, the writing has an artifice to it that makes it hard to warm to the material. Indeed, bizarrely for an EC record, the writing is the fundamental problem. 'Telescope,' especially in the climactic couplets, is notably fussier and inferior to the original draft. The title track is good lyrical idea, but the execution gets clumsier and clumsier until finally the tune expires during the execrable final verse, a truly cringe-worthy outcome for a song purporting to denounce mediocrity. 'Atoms' is a fine confection, but one would sift in vain for real feeling behind all the crafty talk of fractions and quaint Victorian names, while 'Complicated Shadows' is a middling bit of writing-for-hire redeemed mostly by the hollering instrumental chorus. 'Why Can't A Man' takes us ploddingly through the paces of a too-abstract, didactic lyric. Then there are three tracks that amount to whining about some aspect of showbiz or other (Starting to Come to Me, You Bowed Down, and Vanish, which I actually quite like). All told, this stuff isn't terrible, but ultimately it's all rather wan. The excitement that comes of genuine inspiration simply isn't there, at least not to these ears.
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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby cwr » Sun Jan 23, 2011 10:54 am

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: ATUB is really good, but in a way, EC self-sabotaged the record by failing to include "God Give Me Strength" and "Almost Ideal Eyes." Adding those two songs would have made the album a home run.

The Attractions' live version of GGMS was at the Beacon Theater in 1995 to the slowed-down, flugelhorn-driven version Bacharach arranged for the Grace Of My Heart soundtrack. The latter was good, yes, but it was no match for the A's version, which was dominated by Steve Nieven's piano. I've heard an outtake from that ATUB sessions where the band sounds great but EC flubs the vocal (probably why that take has never seen the light of day, officially.) I'm assuming that EC changed his mind about including it on ATUB when he got the idea to make a whole album with Burt, but I really wish he hadn't, especially since GGMS always feels like a tacked-on bonus track on PFM to me, recorded years earlier and following what would have been an excellent album closer, "What's Her Name Today?"

The comparison I would make is to imagine if EC had chosen to leave "Beyond Belief" and "Almost Blue" off of IbMePdErRoIoAmL-- would it still be a good album? Of course. But it would be a severely diminished album, missing two of its most potent tracks. The absence of GGMS and "Almost Ideal Eyes" does the same thing to ATUB. The latter track would have made the record significantly less ballad-y-- and the album got much of its lukewarm response from the fact that it was perceived as a "ballads" album rather than the first official "Attractions" record since 1986. "Almost Ideal Eyes" is a new and different and wild sound from the band, and even EC himself has essentially said he probably should have included it on the album.

The commercial failure of ATUB really did mark the end of an entire phase of Costello's career. He left Warner Bros, dumped "The Attractions" for good, announced his retirement on Leno. He wouldn't return to make a new non-collaborative "Elvis Costello" record for SIX YEARS. In many ways, the record was a complete disaster, especially coming so closely after the relative success of Brutal Youth (which was followed by the non-event of Kojak Variety.) Maybe it's a stretch to say that adding two great tracks would have changed all that-- it probably wouldn't have even changed MOST of it-- but I think that it would have certainly elevated ATUB from an okay-to-good record in a lot of people's eyes to a GREAT record. I know that a certain percentage feel that way about it already, but it always seems to be a deeply felt view within a very small corner of EC fandom, and that corner would be slightly more populous if he hadn't cut out two of his strongest songs of that time...

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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby Jack of All Parades » Sun Jan 23, 2011 5:22 pm

Enjoyed both of your appraisals, PD and CWR. As said before and as you picked up on have never been able to 'warm' to the majority of the material. PD, you hit the right note with 'artifice'. If one shakes the bric-a brac- of a song like "Little Atoms", its structure falls to pieces. How true that what is usually a strength for EC, the songwriting, is ironically the problem here. I enjoyed your usage of 'wan'[or its derivative waning] as it is a noticeably ' pallid' album, 'waning' from the brightness and light of a good album and edging toward the lack of illumination of a 'wan' one. But agree, as well, this is just my ears listening.
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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby wardo68 » Sun Jan 23, 2011 8:45 pm

Having been to one of the warm-up Beacon shows, I was very excited when this album finally came out. And I remained so for the first few weeks. Looking back, however, it seems a little anticlimactic. While I'm still more familiar with the ATUB songs than I am, say, those on WIWC, it seemed more of a big deal at the time than it does now. Could it be the presence (for the last time) of the original Attractions? Maybe. Anyway, I don't hate the album, but I don't put it on that much. Painted From Memory spoke better to me.

If that's not all, here's more:

http://everybodysdummy.blogspot.com/200 ... eless.html

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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby Otis Westinghouse » Mon Jan 24, 2011 7:53 pm

For me the last really great EC album. Others since have had great moments, inc. Nat R, but ATUB was the last one that had enough great moments to make me play it over and over and think 'wow, genius!'. The title track and Other End of the Telescope are my faves, especially the latter, which I just couldn't get enough of at the time.
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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby bronxapostle » Mon Jan 24, 2011 9:01 pm

okay....as mentioned, i put it from cassette to cd this evening and i REALLY like the way it plays out: 19 songs LIVE from the Beacon 1995! all twelve ATUB songs + a handful of other new/unreleased gems. you will like it. doc it is in tomorrows mail! best, ba

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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby docinwestchester » Mon Jan 24, 2011 10:46 pm

bronxapostle wrote:okay....as mentioned, i put it from cassette to cd this evening and i REALLY like the way it plays out: 19 songs LIVE from the Beacon 1995! all twelve ATUB songs + a handful of other new/unreleased gems. you will like it. doc it is in tomorrows mail! best, ba


You da man, ba.

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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby sulky lad » Tue Jan 25, 2011 5:52 pm

All hail to doc and BA for enterprising new ways of looking at live material - respect guys !!

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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby bronxapostle » Tue Jan 25, 2011 6:04 pm

trust me SULKY...you will LOVE this compilation!!!!!!!! :D :D :D

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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby krm » Wed Jan 26, 2011 5:41 am

bronxapostle wrote:trust me SULKY...you will LOVE this compilation!!!!!!!! :D :D :D


did I hear someone whisper Demonoid....?

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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby invisible Pole » Wed Jan 26, 2011 6:49 am

Otis Westinghouse wrote:For me the last really great EC album. Others since have had great moments, inc. Nat R, but ATUB was the last one that had enough great moments to make me play it over and over and think 'wow, genius!'.


My thoughts exactly.
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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby docinwestchester » Wed Jan 26, 2011 9:09 am

krm wrote:
bronxapostle wrote:trust me SULKY...you will LOVE this compilation!!!!!!!! :D :D :D


did I hear someone whisper Demonoid....?


I'll put it on Dime.

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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby krm » Wed Jan 26, 2011 2:34 pm

docinwestchester wrote:
krm wrote:
bronxapostle wrote:trust me SULKY...you will LOVE this compilation!!!!!!!! :D :D :D


did I hear someone whisper Demonoid....?


I'll put it on Dime.



Woohoooo!!! Doc is our man!!!!

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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby when i was cruel » Thu Jan 27, 2011 2:44 pm

Doc pulling through with his sick programs and even greater generosity :)
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Re: What the story behind ATUB (Entire album) ?

Postby Otis Westinghouse » Thu Jan 27, 2011 3:19 pm

The above has made me return to CD2. It's been a while. I bought all the reissues in such rapid succession that I'm not sure I drank all the details in slowly enough, instead I gulped them down and have to go back to remind myself and avoid confusion. My Dark Life is fabulous as ever, but why so much enthusiasm for Almost Ideal Eyes? I don't quite get it. I can't see it fitting the LP proper in mood or style. EC writes:

""Almost Ideal Eyes" is an out-take that should probably have remained part of the album – if only for the bizarre guitar playing in the fade."

I beg to differ. For me it's 200 syllabes per line, frantic into awkwardly slow rhythm switches make it a curio, worthy of CD2, but not a great EC moment, by any means.

The thing that leap out at me as especially enjoyable, and far more pleasurable to listen to, was the cover of Sleeper's 'What Do I Do Now?' which EC makes far more poignant than the original. He writes:

""What do I do now?" is a solo recording of a song by Louise Wener, made in response to her group Sleeper’s participation in the "Four singles in one month" series (see "The other footnote")."

But what was Sleeper's participation? Is it on CD2? I haven't checked all the credits.

Louise Wener is now a novelist (so that was what she did now):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louise_Wener
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