Elvis Costello's fifth album (Taking Liberties, a collection of B-sides and alternate takes, doesn't count) is not had, but it's very unimportant. After exorcising all the devils that haunted him on last year's vastly underrated Get Happy!, Trust, is a watered down postscript. lacking in inspiration and consistency.
Costello tries hard. Musically, the album is interesting and powerful. The Attractions are, far and away, the best backup band in rock music and Costello, though he repeats himself shamelessly, still writes some of the best melodies around. Hut Costello isn't convincing on the new album. He tirelessly throws around the same paranoid phrases he's been using since his debut album over four years ago. (If I hear him sing "dirty looks" one more time...).
Trust is the work of a craftsman. Like McCartney's last solo album, the right notes are there, but throw a punch at the dummy and he doesn't bleed, he just loses some feathers. Technically speaking, a few new breakthroughs are made. The use of Latin-type rhythms on "Strict Time" and "Lovers' Walk" saves these tunes from obscurity and the intricate classical melody of "Shot With His Own Gun" makes this the high water mark of the album.
I can't hold it back for another paragraph ... I can't stand this record. Mediocracy abounds from every corner. I keep looking for the honesty I've come to expect from the man's work and all I can get are lines like "I don't mean to be mean much anymore" and similar word games which Costello has made his signature sound.
Another Costello cop-out is violent verse. Once and awhile. Costello writes completely tasteless songs that deal with physical aggression. "White Knuckles" is Trust's answer to Taking Liberties' "Sunday's Best" and Armed Forces' "Senior Service." It doesn't work anymore.
Get Happy was the work of a man in pain. The gut-level immediacy of every song was too personal for most to stomach. Maybe that's why I felt betrayed listening to Trust. The emotion is forced. Instead of a happier man making a happier album, Costello parodies his own art. Even when he sings killer lines like, "He comes without warning. He leaves without feeling," he sounds as if he's laughing under his breath.
I hope this album is transitional. I can't see Costello progressing much in his present format. Nick Lowe's production sounds like a stripped-down Armed Forces and the tunes are stale. The duet with Glenn Tilbrook from Squeeze is a relief just for the fact that there is another voice blending against Costello's. My bitterness stems from my high expectations of this great artist. This album is a stone-cold drag. What a disappointment.