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Sunday, November 13, 2005 

Long delayed

A while back Stylus had an ELO Week, which was good fun (and naturally enough, some of the response was hilarious), and we had planned to do an all-ELO Jukebox. Sadly not enough people responded, and I meant to throw my responses up here, which I will now, I guess.

10538 Overture
Horrible title, but really nice cellos(?) that aren't nearly as clean and shiny as I would have thought. The result is to actually inject a little grit into the song – even Lynne's vocals sound a bit rougher. It's really all about those strings, though, and the french horn that comes in later. I imagine Lynne is babbling about something portentous and science fiction-y from the title, but everything else drowns him out.

Calling America
I didn't realise until I heard this how much ELO (and I guess the Cars, too) predate modern twee-ish electronic pop. I could absolutely believe this was from Phoenix or someone if the vocals were different. The cute little phone noises are a hoot, but the whole “America = the modern world” thing makes me grit my teeth, the satellite thing is cheesy, and the chorus just barely falls on the wrong side of the sugar line for me.

Don't Bring Me Down
The whole “don't bring me down, Bruuuuuuuce!” thing is so awesome, orders of magnitude more so than the rest of the song, that I just wind up sitting through the rest of it, and after enough time the maximalist layering of the rest of the song grows on me. Great steam-piston drums, and anytime Lynne sounds more like the Bee Gees than himself vocally is a good time.

Evil Woman
I don't think I even have an opinion on this song. I don't think anybody does, anymore. It gets played so much on classic rock radio and the like, and I've heard it so many times, that it's beyond like or dislike. It's just one of those songs that, if we were reducing the modern corpus to archetypes, I'm pretty sure would remain. I'm also pretty sure I could listen to it for twelve hours or so without feeling any differently about it.

Hold On Tight
On their best songs, ELO's wall of sound schtick is a very real part of the appeal, but on the lesser tracks it becomes wearying. The only fun part of “Hold On Tight” is when they do a verse in French. Other than that, this is good-timey ELO by the numbers, not horrible but not really good either.

Ma-Ma-Ma Belle
I swear to God, I thought they were going to start playing “Hot Blooded” when this began. Even though this is a couple of albums on from “10538 Overture”, it's got a very similar feel, very stompy and distorted (for this band, anyway) with similarly rough strings. Broken Social Scene's “Almost Crimes” owes a bit of a debt to the chorus, to boot. And it's cute when Lynne tries to be all tough. Points off for reminding me of Foreigner.

Mr. Blue Sky
This is a pretty great song, but I'm tainted – once I'd heard the Delgados prettily unadorned live version all the silly voices and production tricks here feel like too many cooks spoiling the proverbial meal. And five minutes really is a bit much.

Rock And Roll Is King
Lynne tries to do some Elvis right at the beginning, incredibly inane lyrics, the attempted canonization of your own work, enough rockism to choke a horse – this whole thing makes me wince. The only slightly redeeming bits are the production on the “rama-lama-lama-lama” bits and that wacky middle eight.

Another deeply silly song, this one about Lynne showing some opera singer how to “rock and roll”. Whether this the best use of an opera singer or not doesn't seem to cross his mind, and in fact those bits of the song don't really work. He's going for concept over sound, it seems, and predictably enough that doesn't work either. All you're left with is the cultural chauvinism which assumes that storming the opera house and making them play “the blues” instead is an unambiguous good.

Ooh, forboding. Muted clavinet in the background, nice strings, some doggerel about flying in on the South Wind and it's raining all over the world; Lynne really needs to stick to this sort of thing, where the sawing of the violins provide most of the stomp and his rock band kind of grinds away behind them. It's one of the better uses of his falsetto, to boot; why wasn't this a hit? By the end he's managed to turn all that pathetically fallacious rain into something genuinely compelling.

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Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

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