The artist's name, obviously, is Elvis Costello. The songwriting credits go to Declan McManus and the instrument credits go to Napoleon Dynamite, and that's probably this man's most apt pseudonym, judging by this album.
Costello is back with the Attractions — thank God. The band, Steve Nieve, keyboards, Bruce Thomas, bass, and Pete Thomas, drums, is strong and tight.
But best of all, Costello-McManus-Dynamite's songs are consistently strong, bearing the characteristic edge that much of his recent material has woefully lacked. He's older, more experienced, but still capable of howling and seething with anger.
And he can turn one helluva phrase, as in "Tokyo Storm Warning," a rambling tale reminiscent of "Subterranean Homesick Blues."
"Japanese God-Jesus robots telling teenage fortunes
For all we know and all we care they might as well be Martians
They say gold paint on the palace gates comes from the teeth of pensioners
They're so tired of shooting protest singers That they hardly mention us."
Nick Lowe's production turns "Honey Are You Straight or Are You Blind" into a growling, bluesy snippet. Lowe turns in a cameo on the eerie acoustic guitar. Costello's electric guitar crunches with distortion and he wails the lyrics in the tones of a caged animal.
"Battered Old Bird" is a tale of bitterness, overcome fleetingly by narcotics. But the drugs are scant protection from the squalor he depicts, and in fact contribute to it.
Overall, the music on this record is Costello's best in quite some time. There is little in his catalogue since the days of This Year's Model and a spate of 7-inch singles relaxed at the time that matches the intensity and musicality of Blood and Chocolate. It's enough to renew your faith, if you're a longtime fan.
The sound is distinctly Beatle-esque, comparable to the Magical Mystery Tour pop songs — "Strawberry Fields" comes to mind. There are touches of restless blues, psychedelic and the strident sound Costello built his reputation on in the 1970s.