Wednesday, January 23, 2008

No. 335: Squeezing Out Sparks

Band: Graham Parker
Album: Squeezing Out Sparks
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Graham Parker was, sound-wise, Elvis Costello before Elvis Costello was himself. Parker's pub rock took on New Wave tinges on "Squeezing Out Sparks" and rocked pretty hard.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I prefer Costello's brand of this music.
Best song: "Passion Is No Ordinary Word" is extraordinary.
Worst song: "Don't Get Excited" isn't exciting.
Is it awesome?: Not really. Elvis Costello did this stuff much better.

I should probably stop linking (I already did it in the Sex Pistols piece) to the National Review piece on the top 50 Conservative Rock Songs, as I don't really want to direct traffic to their site. Anyway, "You Can't Be Too Strong" is on that list, because it is one of the more explicitly pro-life songs in rock and roll history. I mean, who can misread the song's opening lyrics?

Did they tear it out with talons of steel, and give you a shot so that you wouldn't feel?
And washed it away as if it wasn't real?

Really, Parker's lyrics tend to fall towards the "man, life was great back then, wasn't it?" that also peppers the Kinks' "Village Green" record, though not nearly to the same place. "Saturday Night is Dead" is a little "Glory Days"-esque in its writing. "Passion Is No Ordinary Word" is conservative in message and "Waiting for the UFOs" has an odd anti-government thing in it.

Parker's politics -- British Conservatism -- is totally out of place in rock and roll. At our college radio station (small sample size, sure, but at a place like University of Missouri, probably more indicative of the nation than some Northeastern liberal arts college), for example, we had a couple of conservatives, but not many. Most people were pretty liberal.

Nevertheless, Parker's sound is remarkably like Costello's. As noted commentor and Yahoo! blogger Kelly Dwyer says, "If you think this is [Costello's] best record, then kindly check out any Graham Parker record from this era." I still prefer Costello, but I now see what he's talking about.


kellydwyer said...

Parker continues to insist that it isn't a pro-life or pro-choice song. That it's just a song about unfortunate situations that people tend to find themselves in.

His anti-Thatcherisms from a few years later hold up.

bellboy said...

Who can misread the song? Well you for one. It is Not about abortion. It is about an abortion. In Parkerville, a song is a perfect creation...often destroyed by a misread...Like yours. Or your comment about Don't Get Excited. That is the abortion. The song is about are the doctor...all rubber gloves and no head. If you want to get happy, keep listening to EC(only an Imposter)if you want the real thing...welcome to Parkerville.

kellydwyer said...

I should point out that "Squeezing Out Sparks" isn't the best example of the "EC sounds like Graham" idear.

Stuff like "Howlin' Wind," "Heat Treatment," and "Stick To Me" sound much more like EC. Especially the first album listed (GP's first). There are times where I'm listening to Costello's first two albums and thinking, "Christ, these are outright rips."

By the time Parker made "Sparks," Nick Lowe wasn't producing and the sound was more radio friendly.

kellydwyer said...

Bellboy -- he's doing 500 albums. 500! He's trying to cram your life's worth of GP fandom into a day's work. It's not easy.


Nothing's "destroyed by a misread." Nothing ever has been.

bellboy said...

Well KD...We have a choice between passion or indifference. "Passion" is a song about passion. "Too Strong" is a song about indifference...I know what side I'm on...Do You?

PS...I'm not about dissing people...but if you're our there reviewing or making comments...I assume you want real comments...not indifference. Otherwise...what is the point?

R.J. said...

Clearly, I need to look into this album a little more. Sadly, the thinnest top layer of the Internet (sadly, I have a big paper due for grad school, so I didn't do the research I should've) didn't have a ton of stuff on "Squeezing Out Sparks."

I appreciate both lines of comments and thanks for reading, gentlemen.

Bellboy said...

It should have been No. 3 after Get Happy by the imposter and The Clash by The clash. But all GP albums are deep, great and highly recommended if you are looking for more than the common fare.