For those of you who thought that the pre-Punch-the-Clock Elvis Costello was history, and you were doomed to Wham!-quality pop songs from this enigmatic fellow, take a listen to his new LP Blood and Chocolate. For those of you who thought Punch the Clock was Elvis' history, piss off because this album's not for you.
Blood and Chocolate is a rock and roll album, as Elvis has been promising his skeptical fans for some time. Not only that, but it is an excellent rock and roll album. It marks a return to the basics for Elvis. For starters, he has given up the idea of reverting to his real name, Declan Patrick MacManus, which just doesn't have the same appeal. fie has regrouped with the Attractions after experimenting with a new lineup on his previous LP, King of America. Nick Lowe, Elvis' former producer and fellow British pop-rock god, has returned to produce Blood and Chocolate and has honed Elvis' usually rambling melodies down to their bare themes, with refreshingly clean results.
As if speaking directly to his wondering faithful, the album starts off with the lines "You think it's over now / but we've only just begun" from a song titled "Uncomplicated." It's a nice greeting, and a tremendous song. It is a restrained dirge which sounds like someone has slowed it down a few rpm's by putting their finger on the album, just enough to be mildly annoying. That finger is then removed and the song bursts into the chorus which, as a result, comes off so powerfully melodic that it'll make you cry. Then it slows down, then it speeds up again.
This pattern of verse-chorus-verse-chorus is a basic one which Elvis repeats, almost to extremes, on several other songs. "Tokyo Storm Warning" maintains a hypnotic shift of melodies from verse to chorus throughout its epic length in which the chorus returns five times. The chorus of "I Want You" consists of those three words repeated after every line. It's a simple method, but works very effectively, conveying a sense of urgency. "Battered Old Bird" tells the story of four people while tying them together with the same chorus descriptive of all their lives. Aside from Elvis' usual wordplay his experimental use of the choruses is the only way in which this album strays from being uncomplicated.
"I Hope You're Happy Now" and "Honey Are You Straight Or Are You Blind?" are straightforward rock and roll tunes. The beauty of "I Hope You're Happy Now" is that Elvis sings the first line of each song solo and then the band kicks in to bring the song to a higher energy level. Very bar-bandish, and I like it. On "Honey..." Elvis simply screams a lot, and I like that too. In fact, the whole album's a scream and well worth buying.