Drexel University Triangle, May 31, 1991

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Elvis Costello's latest, Mighty Like a Rose
is another disappointment


Ted Howe

It has been written many times that Elvis Costello was the most intelligent artist to come out of the British punk rock explosion of 1977. Unfortunately, it seems that Elvis may have finally become convinced of this fact. His latest effort Mighty Like a Rose is mired in overly-complex lyrics and plodding musical arrangements.

Mighty Like a Rose, which is Costello's second release on the Warner label, again fails to live up to the quality of any of his recordings with Columbia Records. Early on, Costello's music (most of which was recorded with his back-up band, the Attractions) was marked by a raw energy and lyrics that were at once social commentary and introspective examination.

His reputation as the "intelligencia" of the punk rock movement was well deserved. Costello was a master of the short song form and could tell whole volumes in less than three minutes. But as his career has progressed, he seems to be driven to write more and more "intelligent" (read: complex) lyrics, and he has been forced to write songs that are less listenable in order to accommodate that complexity.

The specific problems with Mighty Like a Rose are numerous. The album is generally slow paced. This is not a problem in itself, but instead of the relaxed feeling that is associated with most slow-paced albums, this one just seems listless. There is no energy and most of the songs seem to drag on forever. This is quite a contrast to past albums like Imperial Bedroom or Armed Forces. On those albums the songs came at you fast and furious, and they required that you listen to the album many times to catch all of the meaning from the lyrics.

Perhaps the biggest problem is the lack of fresh tunes. All of the songs are sounds that have been heard before on Elvis' albums (only they sound like 45 r.p.m. singles that have been slowed to 33 r.p.m.).

Out of the entire album there is only one song that I genuinely like. "Georgie and Her Rival" is an uptempo tune that tells a story in the manner of older songs like "You Little Fool" from Imperial Bedroom. Other than that, there is not much that the album has to offer. "Harpies Bizarre" has some interesting lyrics and "Playboy to a Man" tries, but ultimately fails, to satisfy.

At least Elvis' 1989 release, Spike had some new direction and more pop energy (thanks to the songwriting of Paul McCartney). But when you really get down to it, Costello's music hasn't been the same since he split with the Attractions after Blood and Chocolate. In my opinion, the only way that we will get to hear a consistently good album from Elvis is if his old hacking hand is there to help him along.

There is a lot of new music out there right now. You could do far better by spending your money on almost anything else that was released in the past month. You certainly can't do that much worse (with the rather obvious exception of the new Samantha Fox album). Next time 'round, Elvis may come out with an album worth owning, but that would he a surprise indeed.

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Drexel Triangle, May 31, 1991


Ted Howe reviews Mighty Like A Rose.

Images

1991-05-31 Drexel University Triangle page 11 clipping 01.jpg
Clipping.

1991-05-31 Drexel University Triangle page 11.jpg
Page scan.

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