Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bitter Fingers

Continuing the autobio theme of the Captain Fantastic album, this is an account of the relatively brief amount of time that Bernie and Elton spent as songwriters-for-hire for Dick James, and also while Elton was performing with Bluesology. Apparently, this got old pretty fast and the lyrics reflect the discontent they shared while doing so, as expressed by some amusing lines such as

Those old die-hards in Denmark Street start laughing
At the keyboard player's hollow haunted eyes


And there's a chance that one day you might write a standard lads
So churn them out quick and fast and we'll still pat your backs
'Cause we need what we can get to launch another dozen acts
Are you working?

Elton casts the verses in another Gilbert & Sullivan (or yes, Queen)-type setting, with cascading piano triplets accompanying his clipped diction. More relaxed than "Better Off Dead", but close. Johnstone mimics the keys on that buzzy, pinched guitar sound he was fond of using in this period, and Ray Cooper chimes in occasionally on percussion. But when the chorus kicks in with the ascending melody line on "It's hard to write a song with bitter fingers" the band, rhythm section and all, speeds up to nearly twice the tempo then slows back down for the verse again, as if they're trying to goose the song along.

If it's trying to infer that the process flowed smoother when they were writing for themselves, the "bitter fingers" lyric doesn't make that apparent. As is, the tempo shift just seems arbitrary, as if someone just thought it would be a good idea and nothing else. Still, even with this minor flaw it's an entertaining track.

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