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.