What the world needs now is an Elvis Costello album that is not a collaboration with Burt Bacharach or a Swedish opera singer.
And perhaps as an antidote to Britney, 'N Sync and the other teen-targeted bands. Costello has heeded the call, delivering a mature rock album that harkens back to his days as the quintessential angry young man that the world began to admire with I977's classic album My Aim Is True and 1978's completely brilliant This Year's Model.
His first rock album since 1994's Brutal Youth, and his first solo album since 1996's All This Useless Beauty (which contains some of the most beautiful, forlorn ballads ever composed), When I Was Cruel features some fine new Costello songs, combining his trademark bite with his wonderfully expressive voice.
On When I Was Cruel, one finds that Costello still has no desire for love, or even to love, but he still manages to find a theme that relates to nearly every listener.
Every song on When I Was Cruel is finely written and well crafted. The tracks manage to string together remarkable poetry with gorgeous harmonies that form a wonderful album.
The only flaw of When I Was Cruel is that it lacks the atomic blast of his early albums, particularly the aforementioned This Year's Model. Though this might seem like a strange criticism. on his new album, Costello just isn't quite angry enough. He seems to have mellowed a sliver in his old age.
But even though the music lacks the violent urgency of his earlier works, this album shows yet again that Elvis Costello is among the finest songwriters and performers ever.