Elvis Costello has long been thought of as one of the leaders of the new wave movement (a title we are not sure he wants, or necessarily deserves). But Costello has been moving farther away from that sound with each successive album. His latest work, Trust, is a collection of his earlier styles, and at the same time, it branches in new directions.
"Clubland," the single, is in the style of many songs from Costello's first two albums. This cut, as well as "Fish and Chip Paper," and "From a Whisper to a Scream," (with guest vocalist Glenn Tillbrook from Squeeze) are accessible, fun tunes.
"New Lace Sleeves" and "White Knuckles" smack more of the Armed Forces lp, because they deviate from the standard rock 'n' roll arrangement. You'll Never Be a Man and Watch Your Step, with their heavy emphasis on keyboards, sound like they are from the Get Happy! period.
"Different Finger" once again reveals Costello's country and western influences. Though the pedal-steel guitar is missing, the bass riff and drum beat can be heard on Hee-Haw every week.
Other songs on the album are unlike anything Costello has tackled before. For example, "Lover's Walk" features the famous Bo Diddley rhythm over a standard drum beat. This compelling combination, with Costello's vocal, makes a powerful song. "Strict Time" also makes use of an unusual, syncopated rhythm.
Perhaps the most interesting song on Trust is "Shot With His Own Gun." Costello sings this one accompanied only by a piano, which, strangely enough, has a classical sound to it.
As we have said before, leaving Elvis Costello alone in a recording studio guarantees something bizarre. The only song he produced on this album is also the strangest. Titled "Big Sister's Clothes," it unabashedly hits the listener with peculiar noises and an eerie, dramatic sound.
The lyrics of the songs on Trust are as cryptic and oblique as any Costello has written. And for those who think he is getting soft in his old age and that he is losing the bitterness that was his inspiration, Elvis sings the line "It's easier to say 'I love you' than 'Yours sincerely' I suppose."
Trust could prove a commercial success. It has the fine production of Armed Forces, and there are only 14 songs on the album, all of average length. The fact that Get Happy! seemed hastily put together, that the songs were very short and that there were so many of them (D.J.s could not decide which ones to play) kept the album from getting much airplay. Trust is an attractive illustration of Elvis Costello's versatile talents, and it could sell very well.
Hear these albums reviewed on Helter Skelter, Sunday evenings at 7:00 p.m. on WDUK.