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The 10 Best Elvis Costello Songs

September 27, 2010  |  10:35am

Around Paste HQ, we’ve been patiently waiting for National Ransom, Elvis Costello’s latest, and last week he teased us with the title track.

If that Nov. 2 release date can’t come soon enough for you either, join us as we pay tribute to our eighth-best living songwriter with the following 10 classics:

10. “Shipbuilding”

Costello has referred to this song about the Falklands War as “the best lyrics I’ve ever written,” and it’s hard to disagree with him.

9. “Beyond Belief”

Here, our bespectacled hero experiments with some new sounds, but the words are classic Costello: “History repeats the old conceits / The glib replies, the same defeats / Keep your finger on important issues / With crocodile tears and a pocketful of tissues.”

8. “Every Day I Write The Book”

This 1983 ditty was Elvis’ first hit single on this side of the pond. Any girl who says she wouldn’t want a song like this written about her is a liar.

7. ”(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding”

Costello’s take on this Nick Lowe song is one of those rare, special covers that usurp their original version.

6. “Watching the Detectives”

The subject of this reggae-infused song would rather watch TV than give Elvis the attention he deserves, but when he tears into it, all eyes are on him.

5. “I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea”

Costello spits out cynicism about this posh London neighborhood over an unforgettable bassline.

4. “Pump It Up”

This classic from This Year’s Model also boasts a fantastic video; check out the legs on Costello!

3. “Radio Radio”

This indictment of mainstream media was once so controversial that he was barred from playing it on Saturday Night Live in 1977. After years of being banned from the show, he came back and played it for their 25th anniversary.

2. “Alison”

A phenomenal tune about heartbreak and trying to keep your image of someone alive.

1. “Oliver’s Army”

Protest songs can be catchy too, and the killer synth parts on this gem from Armed Forces almost distract you from the fact that Costello’s delivering some smart, biting lyrics about the politics of war.

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