For anyone who has followed the varied and tumultuous career of Elvis Costello, his latest offering, Blood and Chocolate, should take you back to the good old days of 1977, when he first graced the airwaves of North America.
Reunited (at least for now) with his band the Attractions and enlisting the services of his first producer Nick Lowe, it seems Costello has set out on a journey to rediscover his musical roots. In fact, Blood and Chocolate so resembles his earlier work that one might easily mistake it for his second or third album.
The material on the album is all attributed to D. McManus (Costello's real name), except for "I Hope You're Happy Now," which is credited to Costello. Helping with backing vocals and collaborating on a track called "Tokyo Storm Warning" is Cait O'Riordan, Costello's fiancée and member of the Pogues, a band popular in the United Kingdom.
The first single, "Home is Anywhere You Hang Your Head," immediately suggests Costello hasn't lost his obsession for spoonerisms and verbal gymnastics. The song is yet another statement of Costello's views on love and sex in the late 20th century. Written in ballad style, the song is strongly reminiscent of his earlier ballads such as "Party Girl" (Armed Forces) or "Alison" (My Aim Is True). Other potential singles include "Down in a Blue Chair" and "Tokyo Storm Warning."
It wouldn't be new to say Elvis Costello is a hard guy to figure out. His lyrics are cryptic to say the least, and one never quite knows if he is laughing at himself or taking himself seriously. In this album, however, he sincerely seems to be having fun. He shrugs off the public's refusal to call him by his real name and calls himself Napolean Dynamite on the back cover. His whole approach has softened and he seems content to sit back, enjoy himself, and give the public what they want.
So has Elvis sold out or is he just having fun? Only his optician knows for sure. Suffice it to say, if you like his early work, you'll like his latest.