For his sixth album in four years (did you hear that Boss fans?), Elvis Costello has decided to make a "movie." It's called Trust and, no surprise, stars Costello (who also serves as writer and director) as the hard-boiled hero of frustration, caught up in a web of intrigue, murder and a lovers' triangle.
How can it not be the blockbuster of the year? Costello has taken the best elements of classic Hollywood films of the Forties —love, hate, sex, violence and death. What could be more entertaining? Well, for starters, there's the soundtrack.
Fourteen new songs, each branded by the patented Costello vocal punch, not to mention the ever-intensifying rhythm section of the Thomases (Bruce and Pete) and Steve Nieve's nightclub piano and Farfisa organ. Once again Nick Lowe is on hand to keep things sounding smooth, or should we say smoothest (without a doubt this is Lowe's finest production effort ever). And, in addition to this regular cast, Costello has acquired the talents of special guest stars Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze and Martin Belmont of the Rumour.
If you somehow missed Costello's last epic, Taking Liberties, Trust gives you another chance to experience the prolific charm and maturity of the 25-year-old songwriter. Costello has mastered every genre of popular music with such finesse, it's almost scary. Without missing a beat, Costello is able to switch from the light rock of "Clubland" to the Bo Diddley-powered bossa nova of "Lovers Walk." He can cook up a country tune if he wants ("Different Finger"), or can dive into heavy head-banging material like "Luxembourg." And then, of course, there are the songs that can't be labeled as anything but pure Elvis Costello, such as the bouncy "Strict Time" or the melodramatic "Shot With His Own Gun."
Holding these varying musical styles together throughout the entire album is Costello's stinging lyrical wit (which, by the way, also forms the plot of the forenamed "flick"). Opening with "Clubland," Costello puts us in a seedy nightclub in London, frequented by criminal types and losers who "come to shoot the pony" and "do the jerk." This song, which features great "spy" guitar and piano licks, also provides a good example of how well Costello plays with words: "Thursday to Saturday, money's gone already / Something's come in common these days / Your hands and work aren't steady."
The Hollywood "femme fatale" enters in "Lovers Walk," and according to our hero, her "love walks where three's a crowd." Costello's advice, "Be on caution where lovers walk." If you're familiar with Costello, you know he's not going to take his own warning. Over on side two, Elvis sighs over "the salty lips of the socialite sisters with their continental fingers that never seen working blisters / Oh I know they've got their problems, I wish I was one of them." Before long, he's at the mercy of a woman, as he sings in anguish with Tilbrook in "From a Whisper to a Scream:" "Oh it's not easy to resist temptation / Walking around looking like a figment of somebody else's imagination / Taking every word she says, just like an open invitation / But the power of persuasion is no match for anticipation."
Costello gets his opportunity in "Different Finger": "I don't want to hear your whole life story, or about my strange resemblance to some old flame / All I want is one night of glory / I don't even know your second name." Unfortunately, she's a married woman: "Put your rings on a different finger before I turn out the light." If you were waiting for the violence, it comes up next on "White Knuckles," Costello's longest song (3:46) since "Living in Paradise" from This Year's Model. Opening with a cheerful rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" by Steve, Costello brutally describes what happens when the husband finds out: "White knuckles on black and blue skin / He didn't mean to hit her but she kept laughing."
Well, what else would be next but a shootout. "Shot With His Own Gun" dramatically describes how "The little corporal got in the way and he got hit by an emotional ricochet." The details of the murder can be read in the "Fish 'n' Chip Paper," in which Costello tells us "The cost of living in sin would make a poor man out of Paul Getty."
The album closes with the only song not produced by Lowe, "Big Sister's Clothes." Wait a second! If Costello produced this one, does that mean he wasn't the one who was bumped off? Well, I guess you can't trust anyone these days.