DePauw University DePauw, September 28, 1984

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Costello gets political on Goodbye Cruel World

John Sisson

Elvis Costello's latest release, Goodbye Cruel World, is his most political album in a while.

As always, Costello's music and lyrics steer away from the mainstream of Top 40 pop. On Goodbye Cruel World, many familiar Costello themes can be recognized: society's impositions on rela­tionships, cheap sex and politics, a subject Costello has not touched since some of his earliest albums.

When you set the needle down, a bleeting sax steps right into a jazzy tune, "The Only Flame in Town." It is undoubtedly the most "pop" tune on the album. Featuring Daryl Hall on background vocals, this song may reflect an attempt by Costello to ap­peal to a wider audience.

"The Only Flame in Town" is exemplary of Costello's usage and development of symbolism in his lyrics. Although his usage of the symbol of fire is perhaps a bit cliched, it is cleverly work­ed into the song.

The second song, "Home Truth," again deals with a relationship, but centers on guilt, commitment and honesty. "Is it the lies that I tell you, or the lies that I might?" Costello sings.

"Inch by Inch," one of the best tracks on the album, centers on a seduction scene. The music enhances the feel­ing of the song with a sinister keyboard melody an a sirenic electric saxophone.

"Worthless Thing" is an all­ out attack on cable television, MTV and media's promotion of celebrities, as well as the worship of these celebrities by the public.

Side one ends with "Love Field," an observation of love: the beauty of innocent love as compared to love tainted by influences and im­positions of society.

On side two, "The Come­dians" is a cut on bar romances, on wasting time with worthless social situa­tions and romances.

"Sour Milk-Cow Blues" deals again with a relation­ship, and expresses how in some cases people "start out as lovers and end up as prisoners."

"The Deportess Club" is another cut on American bar romances in which the nar­rator gets drunk, confesses all his troubles "to another faceless, backless dress," and comes to a realization about cheap sex. Afterwards, of course.

The album ends with Costello's most political state­ment since his third album, Armed Forces. "Peace In Our Time" deals with the ironic term "international peace." Sure, Costello says, everybody believes we have international peace because there are no major world wars, but what is with all of the missiles and invasions?

Costello's point in "Peace in Our Time" is not a case for immediate nuclear disarma­ment, but a realization that our concept of world peace is false, and until we come to terms with that, we will never attain "peace in our time."

Of the songwriters who try to write songs with some kind of theme, few have the guts or even the capability to raise in­tellectual political issues. Costello does this admirably.

Even the album cover and title contribute to the political stance Costello takes. The cover symbolizes the Chris­tian divinities as they watch the world destroy itself.

The title of the album is a cliche which Costello twists in order to fit his purpose. In­stead of "goodbye cruel world," pertaining to the last words of one who commits suicide, it is Christian divinities saying it, for surely a world must be cruel to destroy itself. Now let's see Rick Springfield develop such an intellectual argument, but perhaps he is too busy making another movie.

As always, The Attractions help create Costello's unique sound. Since Costello has been de-emphasizing guitar in his latest releases, organist Steve Neive has played an especially strong role in syn­thesizing Costello's sound, as can be heard in "The Only Flame In Town" and "I Wan­na Be Loved."

One must not overlook the influence of bassist Bruce Thomas on "Inch By In­ch" and the drumming of Pete Thomas on rocking tunes like "Room With No Number" and "The Deportee's Club."

Costello's singing is en­thusiastic and emotional, and the songs sound of a good melodic beat fused from jazz, pop and new wave consti­tuents. The lyrics, as always, are flavored with rich sym­bolism, twisted cliches and double meanings.

Goodbye Cruel World is the best release for Costello in a while. It is a good invest­ment for those who want songs to listen to and not songs that do little more than move your eardrums.


The DePauw, September 28, 1984

John Sisson reviews 'Goodbye Cruel World'.


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1984-09-28 DePauw University DePauw page 09.jpg
Page scan.


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