Dayton Daily News, May 3, 2002

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When I Was Cruel

Elvis Costello

Ron Rollins

Elvis Costello once dissed pop music in the 1980s by dubbing it the "decade that music forgot," but there are plenty of his fans who argue it differently: The 1980s were the decade in which Costello forgot how to make music.

It's a familiar tale now how Costello blazed onto the scene in the late 1970s. He spent most of the '80s and '90s dabbling in everything from country to unsatisfying collaborations with Burt Bacharach. And suddenly, it's Elvis is back in the building. When I Was Cruel is a terrific and surprising return to form, and one of year's best rock records. Bristling with tricky song structures and a subtle sonic tricks, Costello's still-unconventional rock writing and guitar work injects a staticky, nervous energy into even the quietest cuts, giving an edge-of-the-seat anxiety to the whole affair: Costello at his best always worked on a tightrope, and he's climbed back.

The disc stands solidly on Costello's vicious, delicious wordplay. His topics range from environmental pillage to the sad lies lovers tell, all rendered in the oblique cockiness that once made his songs so clever they were scary. Be ready to be happily scared once again.


Copyright, 2002, Cox Ohio Publishing. All rights reserved.

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Dayton Daily News, May 3, 2002


Ron Rollins reviews When I Was Cruel.


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