Review of Pills And Soap
NME, 1983-05-28
- Richard Cox



THE IMPOSTER: Pills And Soap (Demon). As genuine as they come, believe me. The mood that beatstalks 'Pills And Soap' makes up a physick of fear and disgust that Elvis Costello has never brewed more potently.As the record slips into the sick drudgery of the pop mainstream it should make everything it touches turn green and idle. This is poison, and it hurts.

Perhaps commercial neglect is stiffening Costello's backbone, or maybe this is a particularly dark temper from his newest work; either way it stands with the stupidly overlooked 'Man Out Of Time' as the most crushing and chilling45 he's released since 'Watching The Detectives'.

All the confectionery if pop is sucked to a bitter kernel, scraped away to a bone. No guitars caress the song's indictment, only Naive's fisted keyboards, an intermittent bass drum and a robotic clapatrack. Spare embellishments on a monologue that opens on an anaesthetised death and ends in a damned and hopeless patriotism, strung between a chorus that bleeds the bile of despair: "What would say, what would you do / Children and animals two by two Give me the needle, give me the rope / We're going to melt them down for pills and soap." When the singer is double-tracked in a twisted, grotesque harmony at the climax it feels like ice on an open wound. Music on an edge over an unspeakable drop.