“I’ll Wear It Proudly” Elvis Costello
(technically The Costello Show, written by Declan MacManus)
Best Of: All muted notes ever.
Absolutely the Moment: Those first muted notes, echoing against nothing, eliding into echo. (I’ve heard it’s called reverb). A mission statement: tension is coming, nice tension. Well, nice-ish. Also: I love you.
Sadly, this is the only YouTube video of an Elvis Costello version
$ The bassline that takes the place of the muted guitar once the lyrics start. Those first two and a half lines of the first verse where the bassline runs the show, before the acoustic guitar rips back to tear off the buttons. “Songcraft is the best,” it says, just by being a conscious choice that was made 25 years ago.
$ The soft Hammond organ in the chorus, and especially in the bridge. It’s still a bridge if it goes from chorus back to verse (instead of the other way around), right?
$ The dynamics of the vocals– genuine attack seasoned with affected relent. This is before the classic Costello Oversing became old/completely de rigueur– no, wait, probably not. Well…
I think Blood & Chocolate is where it would have lapsed into self-parody if Blood & Chocolate wasn’t the fucking best. [See also: Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood. SEE HIM] So, by King of America, we’re very near peak Oversing. Maybe this is the perfection of the technique (“I’ll Wear It Proudly” and “Indoor Fireworks”) and “Little Palaces” is our jumping shark. Since the tracklisting goes 6. “Indoor Fireworks” 7. “Little Palaces,” and then 8. “I’ll Wear It Proudly” it’s easiest to say it is the peak and therefore the beginning of the end. GLAD WE GOT THAT SETTLED.
But it still works real good here.
Almost every lyric is worthy of mention, but:
$ “I hate these flaming curtains they’re not the color of your hair”
When the world around shifts and changes to match the intimate world of your concern– that’s my number one cinematographic move. And now here it is (well: referenced, lamented at the lack of) in song form!
$ “I hate the buttons on your shirt when all I wanna do is tear”
That patented Costello blood-in-the-mouth seetheteeth delivery. As noted above, that the guitar would come strumming hard here is one of those things that validates entirely all pop songcraft. Elvis Costello:restraint::Chris Ware:alsorestraintbutfromtheoppositedirection. Superego v. Id. Maybe Bill Callahan is the Ego of that.
[NOTE: don’t worry, I will regret writing those last three sentences (soon, even) – me]
$ “You seem to be shivering dear and the room is awfully warm”
Is it possible to say that, in context, and not come off like a creep? The sculpted wording would be a red flag. I might be able to say “You seem like you’re shivering but it’s awful warm in here,” maybe, while making a move of some kind. A hand raised to a face, a wink, a stroke of some kind that is near-indistinguishable from petting, or something else that never works outside of TV unless you are a real hyperconfident Elvis Costello type.
$ “Were your arms and legs wrapped round more than my memory tonight /
When the bell rang out and the air around turned blue from fright”
It’s like “I Want You” and “Poor Napoleon” all wrapped and encapsulated into half a verse. (“I Want You” content with “Poor Napoleon” aesthetics). A little “Long Honeymoon” for good measure? Probably just because of cheatin’ phones.
It’s ridiculous enough that one man could write (and perform) just this song, but to also write (and perform) “I Want You” and “Indoor Fireworks” and “I Hope You’re Happy Now” and “Poor Napoleon” and “Brilliant Mistake” and “Next Time ‘Round” and etc. all in one year (a year one decade into his career no less).
“I’ll Wear It Proudly” is one of the most impressive songs Elvis ever wrote and one of the better songs about love anyone has written.