If any other artist were pulling this reunion stunt, we'd call it bankrupt revivalism, or gross opportunism, and dismiss it with a sneer. Much like we'll soon be doing with the bankrupt revivalist reunion opportunism of the Eagles' unwelcome reformation. But this isn't any other artist we're talking about. It's Elvis Costello, whose legacy has not grown tired in perpetual classic-rock syndication, whose reunion with one-time Attractions Pete Thomas, Bruce Thomas and Steve Nieve, plus Costello producer Nick Lowe, was inspired by convenience, not commercial bankruptcy, and who's a formidable practitioner of the cynical sneer in his own right. Ergo, dismissal takes a back seat to celebration.
Costello, of course, doesn't have to do this. His recent work with the Brodsky Quartet on The Juliet Letters shows that his audience will follow him anywhere, even into the rarefied air of chamber music. He has paired up with guitarist Marc Ribot on Rob Wasserman's Trios album and penned an entire LP's worth of tunes for the debut of ex-Transvision Vamp Wendy James alongside putting out his own solo albums.
But by these ears, Costello is listened to most fondly as the angry young lad in Buddy Holly's glasses and Johnny Rotten's smirk who appears on early masterpieces like Get Happy and Trust from his Columbia catalog, being re-issued by Rykodisc as we speak. So it's a happy event to see Costello return — if only briefly — to partnership with his old mates for a new tour, and a new album that touches all the old buttons without a hint of staleness.
It's titled Brutal Youth (Warner Brothers), and amongst the 15 gem-cut tunes is one called "London's Brilliant Parade," wherein Costello returns to his old stomping grounds in a dream, singing "Just look at me, I'm having the time of my life." And then, because he's Elvis Costello, he tacks on: "Or something quite like it." From the sound of things, it's close enough.