Twelve years down the road, it's pretty hard to get excited about Elvis Costello anymore. Granted, he is hailed as a genius songwriter, and a gifted musician, he's proven his worth and merit well beyond the smoking ruins of "New Wave," and his lust few albums (My Aim is True, This Year's Model, and Armed Forces) are classics in their own time. But, after several albums of Elvis Costello in a row, one can get completely numbed to his easily identifiable formula. This is not to say that he's not an innovative artist and performer, but all too often, it's always the same old song n' dance from the Costello repertoire.
Regardless, this Buddy Holly look-alike is back sans the Attractions. with Spike, an album already praised by various critics who slap a slew of stars under it. In the past, Elvis has strummed and sang alongside quite a line-up of musical celebs, ranging from Jimmy Cliff to Daryl Hall (!), but Spike finds him hanging out with some real curious folks. You know time has flown by when Elvis Costello starts recording with rock dinosaurs like Paul McCartney and Roger McGuinn of the Byres. Other cameo appearances are made by Chrissie Hynde of Pretenders fame, T-Bone Burnett (who also co-produces), Benmont Tench from Tom Petty's Heartbreakers, Irish folksinger, Christy Moore, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and Cait O'Riordan, the ex-Pogue and current spouse of Mr. Costello. The list is long and distinguished, but who cares about name-dropping? How's the music?
Well, Spike finds the satirically self-proclaimed "beloved entertainer" once again churning out a lot of the same old schmaltzey, weepy-weepy melancholia hymns that transformed him from Declan MacManus to Elvis Costello, back to Declan MacManus and on to Elvis Costello again (who can keep score?). There are some good tunes, like "...This Town...," "Pads, Paws, and Claws," "Miss Macbeth," and "Veronica," all of which break away from the sluggish, late-night-after-hours-cocktail-lounge sound that dominates the majority of this album. Costello does have his moments on much of the slower material, but some of it is a trifle self-indulgent and heavy. "God's Comic" is particularly bad, I must say, with its syrupy "Now, I'm Dead" chorus that drips limply out of the speakers. Elvis,