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Elvis Costello's most recent record, released in April of 2002. Costello is backed by longtime collaborators Pete Thomas (of The Attractions, on drums], and Steve Nieve on keys. Davey Faragher plays bass, and Elvis is assisted by a horn section at times.

The Tracklist:
1. 45
2. Spooky Girlfriend
3. Tear Off Your Own Head (It's a Doll Revolution)
4. When I Was Cruel No.2
5. Soul For Hire
6. 15 Petals
7. Tart
8. Dust 2...
9. Dissolve
10. Alibi
11. ...Dust
12. Daddy Can I Turn This?
13. My Little Blue Window
14. Episode of Blonde
15. Radio Silence

This is a new Elvis Costello. And it's one hell of a record he's made. The lyrical themes, well, they don't change much. He once said all his work was based on guilt and revenge. And Elvis spits out some of the best one-line putdowns in song since Dylan, 1966. From Alibi--"I love you just as much as I hate your guts", and, "Maybe Jesus wants you for a sunbeam". From ...Dust, "There's a name for you but it's stuck in my throat". From Episode of Blonde, "She had the attention span of warm cellophane". From Radio Silence, "This better be worth all of the breath I'm wasting". And many of the lines that don't stand out on paper are regurgitated with enough venom to choke a horse. Listen to him sing, "You deserve it, 'cause you're special" on Alibi.

What's different is the instrumentation. There's a Tom Waits feel to alot of the tracks (up until the vocals come in, anyway). There's alot of strange percussion, alot of bang and clatter, some carnival organ, some screaming horns. Elvis plays all of the guitar parts, and displays some decent chops that for most of his career have been kept under wraps.

Usually, the rule of thumb on this record is that the slow songs are the best ones. Of the uptempo tracks, 45 and Daddy Can I Turn This? are probably the best, but it's the ballads that really shine. Alibi is vaguely reminiscent of his early psychopathic masterpiece I Want You, seven minutes of slow, reggae-inflected bitterness, with a bridge lifted out of an old Neil Young and Crazy Horse playbook, and outstanding work by Mr. Faragher on the bass, and Mr. Costello on the lead guitar. Spooky Girlfriend was made a few years too late to be the theme song for Beetlejuice. It walks in on a bass and a brushed snaredrum that for a split-second recalls Walk on the Wild Side, and then comes a strong Elvis vocal (the record is full of these) extolling the virtues of spooky chicks--Right on, brother!--

i want to paint you with glitter and with dirt
picture you with innocence and hurt
the shutter closes, exposes the shot
she says, "are you looking up my skirt?"
when you say no, she says, "why not?"

Other standout tracks are When I Was Cruel No.2, and Tart, which features an excellent piano intro from Steve Nieve and Elvis ironically asking his girl, "would it kill you to show us a little sweetness?". But it's hard to go wrong, just about every song on the record has something to recommend it.

One disclaimer: This is probably not a record for happy, well-adjusted people, whoever they are.


Thanks to CC for getting me this record; you do know how to pick 'em.

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