The Other Side Of Summer is the first track on Elvis Costello’s 1991 release Mighty Like A Rose: an album considered by many to be Costello’s most dense and frustrating. Perhaps it’s because I’m an English Literature graduate and am therefore willing (eager!) to submit pop music to intense analysis, but Mighty Like A Rose is perhaps my favourite Costello record exactly because it’s so dense. The song’s narratives are buried beneath layers of imagery and metaphor; Costello screams on almost every track making the lyrics even harder to parse. In short the album demands (and for me at least rewards) close attention and countless repeat listens.
Having said this though even casual listeners should have no trouble understanding The Other Side of Summer. Costello after all announces his theme in the title: here he’s shedding light on all those aspects of the Summer months to which people normally turn a blind eye. Hence there are lyrics about poisoned beaches and raging forest fires; pop princesses taking drugs and palaces overlooking shanty towns. The music meanwhile resembles the Beach Boys on a bad acid trip: the bouncing bass line less encourages you to dance than beats you into submission while the chorus harmonies are less joyous than taunting and accusatory. This couldn’t be further away from your everyday pop fare.
In fact I can understand why people not given to analysing music don’t like this song.