Two years ago Elvis Costello sent "Armed Force's" into our lives to impress us of his anger toward "emotional facism." Then he sent out a frantic and fractured plea for us to "Get Happy," even though it didn't seem as though he was. Now Costello wants us to "Trust" him.
After a lapse when he lost sight of his music and his message, which ended up transmitted in the form of frantic bursts on Get Happy, Costello seems happier and more confident of his direction on Trust. The ditties, still cast in that brief and bouncy mold, have become more accessible and are free of the more stinging barbs that Costello has been leading into his recent tunes.
The voice has gained a new range; Costello is maturing as a singer and is now confident enough to allow some of his tunes to hinge upon that talent, particularly in the overly-baroque "Shot With His Own Gun" and the pretty "Watch your step."
As a tunesmith, Costello, whose material shows endurance and adaptability has strangely chosen three times on this album to borrow from his past accomplishments. "Put Your Ring on Different Finger" is just a recycling of "Stranger in the House." An attempt to recreate the touching reality. of the live recording of "Accidents Will Happen" fails in the strangely placed "Shot With His Own Gun" — which nevertheless still has the Costello imprint on the lyrics:
How does it feel now you've been undressed
by a man with a mind like a gutter snipe
So surprised to find that it's no big sin
lying skin to skin
Shot with his own gun
Now daddy's keeping mum
Shot with his own gun
Oh, it's too sad to be true
Your blue murders are killing you.
Success comes with "Watch Your Step," a simple ditty modeled along the lines of "New Amsterdam" and "Motel Matches," Costello whispers his warnings to the young gals backed up by a soft organ.
Lacking from Trust is the traditional Nick Lowe effort in all his productions to provide for a smooth segue, between the tunes. The delivery is particularly jumbled between "Clubland," the elpee's excellent opening, and "Lovers Walk" which contrasts with "Clubland" in a harsh and surprising way. Nevertheless, Lowe's production is still as clear and imaginative as always.
The potential 45 on this album is "A Whisper to a Scream," which pits Costello and Squeeze band vocalist Glen Tilbrook in an ace duet that gives this hopping ditty top-ten glow.
Costello definitely deserves a listen, and the quality of the elpee may yet convince you to "Trust" him — at least enough to buy his next elpee.