Blood & Chocolate, Elvis Costello's 13th album, is a perplexing record.
The disc reunites Costello and his original producer Nick Lowe, who was behind the board on Elvis' first six albums, helping to create his spare, emotional sound.
Unfortunately, Lowe doesn't keep the clutter off Blood & Chocolate, making the record a bit of a mixed bag from its opening song, "Uncomplicated" which is filled with psychedelic flotsam, to its unspectacular ending tune, "Next Time Round."
"Tokyo Storm Warning," a seven-minute track that is the album's first single is a rolling but unfocused tour-de-force decrying terrorism from the KKK in Montgomery to bombers in Italy and Argentina. While the sentiment is genuine as always, the song doesn't really get its point across.
The general theme of the album is of rejection by a mate and its best two songs fall in that category. "Blue Chair" is a discussion/contemplation of troubles with women that has a 60s soul feel while "Crimes of Paris" is a story of growing up too fast and falling too hard, augmented by some fine backing vocals from the Pogues' Cait Cait O'Riordan, Costello's current flame.
Other good songs on the record include: "I Hope You're Happy," a bitter song of rejection that sounds like old Costello, "Home Is Anywhere You Hang Your Head" a slow, almost mawkish tune about the spurned Mr. Misery and "Honey, Are You Straight Or Are You Blind" a rocker about an impending breakup.
There are more hits than misses on Blood & Chocolate. But its lack of cohesion and occasional junky cluttered sound makes it a flawed record that's not up to Costello's best.