Elvis Costello on Steve Albini: "That Guy Doesn't Know Anything About Production"
Published Nov 30, 2020Elvis Costello recently declared "We're All Cowards Now" on new album Hey Clockface, but he certainly isn't shying away from sharing what he really thinks about Steve Albini's production work.
Reflecting on some defining music of his life for Pitchfork, Costello shared his love of PJ Harvey's 1993 release 4-Track Demos. The collection features eight demos of songs from Harvey's previous Albini-produced album Rid of Me, which Costello ultimately feels isn't as strong.
"I remember seeing PJ on The Tonight Show. She stood there with just a guitar and did 'Rid of Me,'" Costello recalled. "It was like seeing Howlin' Wolf on Shindig! So great. And then I got the record, and it was nowhere near as good, but it didn't matter. For me, the record sounds like shit."
Of Albini specifically, Costello said, "That guy doesn't know anything about production. He might be the second-worst producer of a great record after Jimmy Iovine, who totally fucked up [Bruce Springsteen's] Darkness on the Edge of Town. It sounds like Bruce is in a fucking shoe box full of tissue paper." Ouch!
In Costello's opinion, "That's why 4-Track Demos is 20 times the version of the songs on the album, in terms of intensity and intent. What matters is her, what PJ is doing. There's nobody like her."
Should Costello aim to seek out a more recent Albini recording, he has work from Cloud Nothings, Laura Jane Grace and Fuzz to choose from.
Earlier this year, Harvey began reissuing her catalogue on vinyl, and while 4-Track Demo and Rid of Me have yet to be repressed, titles that have come back to wax include Dry, To Bring You My Love and Dance Hall at Louse Point.