Spike is Costello's debut for Warner Bros. and his first to be locally released since King of America.
It's also one of the great albums this year, marking D.P.A. MacManus (for it is he) as a major, if maverick, singer-songwriter of rare pedigree. His musical vision and lyrical facility is peerless.
Who else would pen such a mocking song as God's Comic, in which God listening to Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem, wonders if "I should have given the world to the monkeys" and then be so full of bile in "Tramp the Dirt Down," where he rages: "A woman was kissing a child, who was obviously in pain / ...Can you imagine all that greed and avarice coming down on that child's lips / ...When England was the whore of the world / Margaret was her madam / ...When they finally put you in the ground / They'll stand there laughing and tramp the dirt down."
The remaining 13 tracks are just as distinctive in their quirky appeal or scathing jibes. Some are direct, others oblique but not one track is boring.
To be sure, Costello did not achieve this on his own. He had help, among them one Paul McCartney, who co-wrote two songs and also contributed bass on two tracks.
The other musicians are a strong collection from both sides of the Atlantic.
Guitarist Marc Ribot and percussionist Micheal Blair from Tom Waits's band, pianist Allen Toussaint, keyboardist Benmont Tench, drummer Jim Keltner, bassist T-Bone Wolk, guitarist T-Bone Burnett and New Orleans's Dirty Dozen Brass Band form part of the American congregation while the British side, featuring Costello's fellow Irishmen like Donal Lunny (bouzouki and acoustic guitar), Davy Spillane (low whistle and uillean pipes), Christy Moore (bodhran), Derek Bell (Irish harp) and Steve Wickham (fiddle), are responsible for the Celtic atmosphere of some tracks.
While their playing is exemplary, the vision is uniquely Costello's. And what a vision. Buy Spike.