DownBeat, September 1981

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Down Beat

US music magazines



Elvis Costello

Richard Friedman

4½ stars (out of 5) reviews4½ stars (out of 5) reviews4½ stars (out of 5) reviews4½ stars (out of 5) reviews4½ stars (out of 5) reviews

With Trust, his sixth album released in the U.S., Elvis Costello displays a great diversity of musical styles and a powerful ability to achieve emotional impact with tommy-gunned lyrics and mournful pleas alike. In the course of the 14 cuts here, Costello and the Attractions evoke the '60s British sound of the Dave Clark Five ("From A Whisper To A Scream"), the rock howling of early Elvis the first (Presley, on "Luxembourg"), the German cabaret song ("Shot With His Own Gun"), c&w honky-tonk infidelity ("Different Finger"), and the everpresent contemporary ballads that have become the Costello trademark.

The opening song, "Clubland," lets us know we're entering a personal landscape where we'll "believe we're halfway to paradise / believe we're halfway to bliss," as the Thursday to Saturday rock club provides the only release for youthful frustration, and the jousting field for the eternal romantic wars of Costello's obsession. "Lovers Walk" is a chanted litany of complaints and warnings — "be on caution where lovers walk" — backed by an insistent piano and driving rhythm section reminiscent of "Hernando's Hideaway." The most successful ballad on the album is "You'll Never Be A Man," where Costello seemingly chides himself for past failures and declares "I don't want to be first / I just want to last." Here he shows his lyrical strengths: the play on words derived from uncomfortable situations; neo-metaphysical conceits introduced, repeated, and strung into other metaphors; the merging of engaging melodies with rough-textured language.

The band's abrupt shifts from soft, flowing rhythms to unavoidably unsettling drum and bass assaults are showcased in "Pretty Words" as Costello's shout from a disembodied echo canyon tells us "pretty words don't mean much anymore / I don't mean to be mean much anymore," as if offering apologies for past postures. "Strict Time" is a poetic tour de force as the heavy cymbals and churning rhythm section emphasize the lyrical beats of lines like "toughen up, toughen up, keep your lip buttoned up," "cold sweat breaks out on a sweater girl," and "smoking the everlasting cigarette of chastity" A metronome for the new order.

As in his previous work, Trust reaffirms Costello's position as one of the most inventive songwriters in rock. In "Watch Your Step," a line like "drinking down the eau de cologne / spitting out the Kodachrome" is not just a clever reworking of mass culture icons, but contributes to the narrative force of the song. Side two exhibits Costello's growing versatility as a pop songwriter whose stories are told in varying musical genres. Backed by a solo piano in "Shot With His Own Gun" the tempo slows down as Costello's voice hits us directly, making the words all the more affecting. "Different Finger" is Costello's homage to Nashville, akin to the Stones' "Faraway Eyes." He tells his partner, "put your ring on a different finger / before I turn off the light."

Elvis Costello is a dedicated believer in the individuality of the song. Unlike most contemporary rockers, he doesn't write songs that fit his formula; he changes the formula to best fit the message of each song. The messages are of domestic commotion, people doing each other wrong, and the consequences of emotional action — both a musical and lyrical eruption are the natural reactions to Costello's scenarios. As listeners, he has earned our trust.

Tags: TrustThe AttractionsFrom A Whisper To A ScreamShot With His Own GunLuxembourgDifferent FingerClublandLovers WalkYou'll Never Be A ManPretty WordsStrict TimeWatch Your StepElvis PresleyThe Rolling Stones

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DownBeat, September 1981

Richard Friedman reviews Trust.


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Page scans.

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Cover and contents page.
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