American University Eagle, March 6, 1981

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Costello's revolution

Kate McMains

Elvis Costello is a performer of awesome talent and range. Since his debut in 1977 with the amazing My Aim is True in a year that otherwise belonged to the Bee Gees, Elvis Costello has evolved like a rare flower.

His verbal artillery is amazing; one can only be advised to stand back to avoid any "emotional ricochets." On Trust, we once again find Elvis Costello in the front line of his own emotional war.

Musically, Trust is a lot denser than Get Happy!! and that's certainly no accident. The attractions, Costello's band, are his essence, and they too have undergone an evolution over the last four years.

Pianist Steve Nieve is prominent on the new album, fleshing out Costello's rhythm guitar as well as often taking melodic leads. Drummer Pete Thomas' machine-gun roll in the chorus of "Lovers' Walk" is enough to set you on edge — it's like watching Ricky and Lucy Ricardo rhumba on a bed of nails.

The album gets off to a big start with "Clubland." Life is a cabaret? No, it's more like a discotheque in Costello's opinion, sort of a Studio Fifty Bored:

"The right to work/ is traded in for the right to refuse admission/ don't pass out now/ there's no refund/ did you find out what you were missing"

"Clubland" is followed by "Lovers Walk," which alternates between Bo Diddley and some sort of strange rhumba.

On "You'll Never Be a Man," he urges us to "give yourself away and find the fake in me."

"Pretty Words" correlates the shallowness of verbal exchanges between lovers with tabloid newspapers: "There's not much choice/ Between a cruel man/ And a jealous voice."

"Strict Time" sounds like an old Jackson Five song, "Watch Your Step" makes use of the "Secondary Modern" style of bass-electric piano interplay, "Put Your Ring on a Different Finger" is strictly country, while "Luxembourg" sounds more like early Elvis Presley than Elvis Costello.

In addition to the Attractions, guitarist Martin Belmont, formerly of The Rumour, and squeeze singer-guitarist Glenn Tilbrook are featured on the album.

Glenn Tilbrook sings a duet with Costello, an anthem of sexual frustration called "From a Whisper to a Scream." It is a hard-edged song, and the vocal interplay between Elvis and Glenn Tilbrook heightens the tension.

"New Lace Sleeves" is Costello's sneer at high society lovers. "Oh I know they got their problems' 1 wish I was one of them," he sings.

"White Knuckles" is a song for every man who's ever had a girl laugh in his face. The white knuckles symbolize fear, but because they can form a fist they also symbolize a certain degree of loathing; the theme is found in the chorus: "White knuckles on black and blue skin/ I didn't mean .to hit her but she kept laughing/ White knuckles sweating on her head/ 1 never found out what the kisser was for."

This is the ultimate song about rejection and rage from a male standpoint; the Elvis persona doesn't even get to kiss the girl, but lays any doubts and fears to rest by hitting her.

"Shot With His Own Gun" is a song about a woman's revenge. The stark, classical piano sound and Costello's voice are hypnotic. The quiet rage that lies beneath the music and the simplicity of the chorus "Shot with his own gun/ Now daddy's keeping mum" is frightening. What's great about this song is that this male phoney gets his comeuppance as well as Costello's female phonics get theirs.

Elvis Costello's world is seen as an emotional battlefield, its inhabitants caught in the crossfire. when they can't find a big enough alibi to hide behind. In this world, Elvis is king, and we need his experience to cross the battlefield and survive. In Elvis we Trust.


The Eagle, March 6, 1981

Kate McMains reviews Trust.


1981-03-06 American University Eagle page 07 clipping 01.jpg

1981-03-06 American University Eagle page 07.jpg
Page scan.


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