At some point New Wave became Old Wave, and Elvis Costello has been cranking out records longer than the other Elvis did.
Like his namesake, the British Elvis started strong, sank into a slump and then mounted a career comeback. When I Was Cruel, his first solo album since 1996's All This Useless Beauty, ranks with his best work in the past couple of decades.
He wrote all 15 songs with a Silvertone electric guitar and 15-watt amplifier and the approach produced a handful of handsome tunes with "rowdy rhythm," as he calls it.
The opening cut, the autobiographical "45," could pass as an outtake from his first album, and that's high praise. "Tear Off Your Own Head," "Dissolve" and "Daddy Can I Turn This?" also sound great loud.
The best of the slow tunes is the album's seven-minute centerpiece, "When I Was Cruel No. 2," which includes spaghetti-Western guitar, a repeating sample of the '60s Italian pop singer Mina and a lyric that quotes Abba's "Dancing Queen." Mamma mia, it's marvelous.