Elvis Ate America

For all its supposed weirdness, OS1 seemingly required conventional songs at some point. This was/is particularly true of the second half, which tends to fall into either instrumentals or, in one case, the odd, drifting “Corpse”. Islanded amongst this is the somewhat less bizarre (but still eccentric) “Elvis Ate America”, a pure vocals-and-percussion (there might be some bass in there two, along with the odd, very hidden blipping synthesiser) narrative. That said, Howie B’s minimalist chant, a gruff, animalistic (it has the kind of repetitive, involuntary feel, like a frog croaking) Elvis!, is really the standout feature here, certainly the most unusual guest vocal U2 has ever had.

Apart from the bouncy, slightly vintage-sounding percussion, the vocals give an drive of sorts in their call-and-(somewhat more sophisticated) response, and also through the slightly obsessive and occasionally irregular rhyme schemes (rot/plot/shot, knees/TVs/bees). This drive then turns to a building crescendo as a mass of references pop up, some of which make sense (Nixon, Jackson) and some of which are a little more obscure or tenuous (Hitler, Christ, the psalmist). At three minutes long, “Elvis Ate America” is somewhat concise by 90s U2 standards, and also low-key even considering the reduced bombast of Zooropa and OS1. As a song it’s interesting enough to beat out much of what surrounds it on the album, although I can’t really laud it as a classic. This may be personal bias (I’m not remotely as much a fan of Elvis as Bono is), or it could be that there isn’t really enough to the song – it’s essentially a series of concrete details about Elvis Presley (as opposed to the earlier “Elvis Presley And America”, which was a more abstract, foggier rendition). That said, “not a classic” does not mean “unlistenable”. It’s certainly very listenable indeed, a good song that’s useful for anchoring OS1 in faint normality, but balancing that with enough eccentric tics to add intrigue.

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~ by 4trak on August 30, 2008.

One Response to “Elvis Ate America”

  1. The Elvis! chant is by Chuck D, I’m sure it is.

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