Trust? Hardly. "You say the teacher never told you anything but white lies / But you never see the lies that you believe." Elvis Costello, Trust? He wishes. You may have heard rumours to the effect that Elvis Costello has mellowed (like cheese) and has actually become content. And next week my record reviews will be front page in the New York Times. The word is not mellowed, nor is it content. Try disillusioned. Try sad. Try hurt. (Thanks Newsweek). "The little corporal got in the way / And he got hit by an emotional ricochet. / Spends event evening looking so appealing / He comes without warning, leaves without feeling."
Elvis can cover a wide range of emotions, be funny, be honest, be caustic, and yet, throughout this album, you feel a prevailing melancholy, no matter what. A New Wave Woody Allen, perhaps. He hasn't lost anything as far as his composing goes, if anything he's improved. He still has that knack for a twisted phrase, "On your marks, men, ready set, / Let's get loaded and forget," for spoonerisms. "She's got eyes like saucers, / Oh, You think she's a dish," and yes, Elvis can still be nasty, "White knuckles on black and blue skin. / He didn't mean to hit her but she kept laughing." But no matter what he says, or how he says it, he can't hide that bit of disillusionment that so often came out as anger.
So what keeps him from being a sniveling drip? His sense of truth, of open-minded objectivity, and his dark, cryptic mannerisms. He's not asking for pity or for you to love him, just be straight, "It's easier to say 'I love you.' / Than 'Yours Sincerely,' I suppose." Take a look at the "The salty lips of the socialite sisters / With their continental fingers that / have never seen working blisters./ Oh, I know they've got their problems" he doesn't fool around with drippy, 'you are my destiny' dribble, he is only honest, "All I want is one night of glory, / I don't even know your second name."
And tying all the emotions and words together is a remarkable sense of melody, of songwriting. Upon nearing 100 songs written in the past four years, Elvis may be susceptible to a little rehashing of previous songs, you could expect that much. Well, if you can find any songs that sound like copies, you won't many. He has at unending imagination for sell sounds, new melodies and, of course, new lyrics, his forte. He knows well enough that what went before must change, that "Yesterday's news is tomorrow's fish-and-chips paper." You can't stop him now, he's on a roll.