Coming off the reissue glory of his first albums — Rykodisc's amazing, four-disc set, Elvis Costello & the Attractions 2½ Years — Elvis Costello bounces back with Brutal Youth, a nod to his knock-kneed youth.
Brutal Youth (Warner Bros.) is Costello's 18th album in as many years. Since his 1977 post-punk beginnings, starting with the everlasting My Aim Is True, Costello's career has taken turns at proto-country, blue-eyed soul and, more recently, pseudo-chamber music (1993's The Juliet Letters collaboration with the Brodsky Quartet).
As the name implies, Brutal Youth returns to jagged, raucous pop and high-minded attitude. Costello, who's back to the horn-rimmed look of days past, also returns to his old band, the Attractions. It is his first album with his mates plus bass player Nick Lowe — since 1986's Blood & Chocolate.
Not really nostalgic and not quite as angry, Brutal Youth songs "20 Percent Amnesia" and "Kinder Murder" still wouldn't be uncomfortable on My Aim is True. Brutal Youth isn't going to make you forget This Year's Model (more Attractions post-punk vintage). But it's nice to hear Costello get back to basics.
Speaking of Elvis, Tasmin Archer released Shipbuilding (SBK Records), an EP of four Costello songs along with four of her own live tracks. Archer — you know her from her big 1993 single, "Sleeping Satellite" — does a fair job with some of Costello's mid-career work, including "Shipbuilding," "All Grown Up," "New Amsterdam" and a strong "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror."
While we're talking post-punk influences... There aren't any on Soundgarden's latest, Superunknown (A&M). Not that there are supposed to be, really. I can understand why Seattle-sound fans love this record: Production bigger and muddier than the Mississippi; heavy duty Led Zep riffs; and a superlative growl from singer Chris Cornell.
I saw these guys in a club in 1987. I thought they were great, even though I had these stray thoughts that in all the days of listening to Elvis Costello and the rest of the post-punk generation we were supposed to go running, kicking and screaming from bands like this.
I still think Soundgarden is great — at least that's what people tell me. Superunknown just didn't do much for me.