Elvis Costello. a.k.a. Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus, used to be one of pop music's most prolific and entertaining artists — stress used to be.
In the late '70s and early '80s, Costello could be counted on to produce at least one solidly entertaining album per year, sometimes even two. However, since 1985, Costello has managed to put out only five albums — one of them great (1986's King of America), two of them passable (1986's Blood and Chocolate and 1989's Spike) and two of them horrible (1984's Goodbye Cruel World and his newest release, Mighty Like a Rose).
While the new album doesn't quite sink to the overproduced baroque low of Goodbye Cruel World, it does show that Costello isn't at the top of his songwriting form.
The first single, "The Other Side of Summer," is a banal seasonal sing-along that couldn't make it onto a newer Beach Boys album, and it's probably one of the album's highlights. That song points out what's exactly wrong with Costello, though — not only can't he write stinging lyrics like he once could, but he also can't write a coherent melody either.
Elsewhere, Costello continues his songwriting partnership on two songs with former Beatle Paul McCartney, who's not exactly at the top of his writing form either. One of the songs, "So Like Candy" is OK, but "Playboy to a Man" is downright embarrassing.
Only on "All Grown Up," "Harpies Bizarre" and "After the Fall" does Costello exhibit any trace of the talent he once bad. Unfortunately, three good songs don't make for any kind of album.