:: Thursday, September 23, 2004 ::
Punk Rock Countdown: No. 13
"Mystery Dance," by Elvis Costello
One minute and 37 seconds of pure rockabilly bliss, "Mystery Dance" is the best of many terrific cuts from Elvis Costello's 1977 debut album, My Aim Is True. (Other favorites: "Less Than Zero," "Waiting for the End of the World," "Welcome to My Working Week," "Alison" and, of course, "(Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes.") The former Declan MacManus left his job as a computer operator in a London cosmetics factory to become a punk rocker, and one of the greatest songwriters of the punk/new wave era.

"Mystery Dance" is a compact, superbly written song about the tragicomedy of teenage sexual frustration. A modern-day Romeo wants to get it on with his Juliet, but neither of them know the first thing about doing the "mystery dance."

From the get-go, the song has that get-up-and-dance quality about it. That rockabilly guitar -- a few simple chords and held notes, played in quick transition -- is only part of the equation. The other is Costello's vocals and funny, intelligent lyrics. He belts them out with the urgency of a teenager who can't yank his pants down quickly enough:
Romeo was restless, he was ready to kill
He jumped out the window 'cause he couldn't sit still
Juliet was waiting with a safety net
He said, "Don't bury me 'cause I'm not dead yet"
Why don't you tell me about the mystery dance
I wanna know about the mystery dance
Why don't you show me
'Cause I've tried and I've tried, and I'm still mystified
I can't do it anymore and I'm not satisfied

I wish this song lasted more than 1:37, but then again, it wouldn't be "Mystery Dance" if it did. The song doesn't satisfy; it leaves you with a longing for more. Exquisitely frustrating.

:: Andrew 08:42 + ::

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