Whenever it seems that Elvis Costello has slipped back into the wallpaper of pop he bounces back with a vengeance.
This year's album, Spike, was no exception. His unlikely collaboration with McCartney — the iconoclast meets the icon — even yielded an insidiously infectious hit single in "Veronica."
In many respects the partnership made perfect artistic sense, certainly more than the McCartney/Michael Jackson alliance of a few years back. Apart from being fellow Liverpudlians, Costello's role as the lyrical sour to McCartney's sweetness suggested nothing more than his elevation to the position of a surrogate Lennon.
On much of Spike, Costello echoes Lennon's barbed wit, most notably on "God's Comic," where he paints a picture of a debased world where airport novelettes and Andrew Lloyd Webber represent high art.
He begins his four-Sunday residency at the Palladium this weekend and starts a full provincial tour at the Royal Court in Liverpool on Wednesday and Thursday next week.