Elvis Costello's ninth LP in seven years, Goodbye Cruel World, is not his greatest.
That, as with any artist as prolific and stunningly talented as Costello, remains to be made.
But neither is Goodbye Cruel World the loser many reviewers have been calling it.
In fact, it's quite a decent record, though very low key and often understated.
At first, World which consists mostly of downbeat ballads, seems to suffer from sameness in too many of the songs. Repeated listenings, however, dispel that myth.
"Sour Milk-Cow Blues" and "The Deportees Club," on side two, both depart enough from the rest of the record to satisfy fans of Costello's harder rocking side.
The distinctions between the other tunes become clearer with familiarity.
"The Only Flame In Town," with its Daryl Hall backing vocals, is the intended hit single and a true torch tune.
"Home Truth" is about good lovin' gone bad.
"Inch By Inch" offers an acidic Elvis commenting on the battle between the sexes, obviously one of his favorite subjects.
"Love Field," as beautiful a ballad as he's written, provides a one, two, double entendre punch in its lyrics.
"Peace In Our Time," like "Shipbuilding," on his last LP, Punch The Clock, is social commentary delivered with deceiving beauty.
Goodbye Cruel World comes out as something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.
Yet, Costello as romantic crooner is as good as they get.
There are a couple of throwaways here, but many's the struggling songwriter who'd pay plenty for access to this man's wastebasket.