There are no prizes for guessing that Trust is about deceit. Pillow-talk duplicities and private morality in general have long been Elvis Costello's most profitable preoccupation, and Trust is full of descriptions of "average glances and indiscreet yawnings," of men who "come without warning and leave without feeling," of compromises ("It's easier to say 'I love you' than 'Yours Sincerely' I suppose") and evasions ("On your marks, ready, set, let's get loaded and forget...").
Although the arrangements and production are simple and unaffected, avoiding the conceptual flourishes of Armed Forces and Get Happy!!, Trust finds Costello at his most adventurous, out looking for challenges. The structures of the brooding "Shot With His Own Gun" and the equally disturbing "Big Sister's Clothes" find him expanding his already considerable technique, while his singing has never seemed more varied or expressive (the rhythmically elastic crooning on "New Lace Sleeves," while not completely assured, holds out particular promise for the future).
What is worrying, however, is that he seems to be subjecting his lyrics to a process of fragmentation. Whereas the rich ambiguities of "Alison" and "Watching The Detectives" asked for the listener's participation but eventually fell into place, many of the new lyrics are sequences of vivid but dislocated images which obstinately refuse to cohere. Perhaps this, and a readiness to be carried away by his own considerable verbal facility, are signs of boredom. The flashy puns and internal rhymes, although often exquisite in isolation, too often disrupt the tone: "She's got eyes like saucers, you think she's a dish; she's the blue chip that belongs to the big fish." That is marvellous, but it comes close to destroying the mood of the "Big Sister's Clothes."
The best of Trust is wound compellingly tight, but it may be that Costello now needs to set himself a more ambitious task. I hope he will not forsake completely the directness of his earlier songs; behind the cryptic games, his moral vision is as precise and fierce as ever.