From The Desk Of Ra Ra Riot’s Mathieu Santos: Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Live On “Rockpalast” 1978

RaRaRiotLogoLong before Ra Ra Riot performed a single note of its dancetronic third album, Beta Love (Barsuk), the band talked at great length about the need for a change. The viscerally charged chamber-pop outfit had maintained a steady course after the tragic 2007 drowning death of beloved drummer John Pike, blossomed on its 2008 Barsuk full-length debut, The Rhumb Line, and flourished with a variety of subsequent beatkeepers, but everyone felt the inevitable tug of creative evolution after 2010 sophomore album The Orchard. The roles of violinist Rebecca Zeller and guitarist Milo Bonacci changed the most dramatically; with the dominance of the synthesizer on Beta Love, Bonacci was forced to radically reimagine/rewrite his guitar contributions and take on more expansive sonic duties, while Zeller was freed up to explore new approaches with her instrument and the spare strings the band utilized. Bassist Mathieu Santos will be guest editing all week. Read our brand new Ra Ra Riot feature.


Santos: Everyone knows who Elvis Costello is, and how great and cool he is, and how good his band was. But the question is: Does everyone know just how good? Maybe they do, but it’s good to be reminded every now and then. During a recent YouTube excavation, I stumbled across this pristine footage of Elvis and his Attractions absolutely tearing things to shreds on a German TV show in 1978. The urgency with which everything is played, the unbridled energy, the raw fury, their disarming youth and presence—it’s all absolutely spellbinding. What a band! Bruce and Pete Thomas are one of rock’s greatest and most underrated rhythm sections, and Steve Nieve is one of those once-in-a-generation kind of players, arriving from out of nowhere with sensibilities so unique and finely tuned. This is what live music is all about! This is how bands wish they could control the stage! Is the word juggernaut overused when talking about live bands? I don’t care. This band is a juggernaut. This band is what that word means. And I haven’t even mentioned the quality of the songs. Oh, those songs!