Goodbye Cruel World is a particularly apt title for Elvis Costello's 10th album, because more than anything, it represents the culmination of his efforts to drop the nasty cynicism and angry, insulting poses that have marred some of his best efforts.
Costello's last two LP's, Punch the Clock and Imperial Bedroom, were both fine showcases for his writing talents, but occasionally the combination of his caustic lyricisms and sneering delivery threatened to overshadow some of the most memorable tunes he'd ever written. The same sort of problems pop up on Goodbye Cruel World, but for the most part, they're only minor drawbacks.
It's easy to see this LP as an extension of the brand of blue-eyed soul Costello clumsily aimed for on Punch the Clock, what with the first cut, "The Only Flame in Town" featuring Daryl Hall crooning over a modified Barry White backbeat, and side two gliding into the MOR funk of "I Wanna Be Loved," but this time out Elvis really seems to have his heart and his head in it.
The talent he demonstrated for skilfully crafted ballads on Punch the Clock is also evident in what are probably the album's best cuts, "Love Field," and "Peace in Our Time."
The Attractions, once again, prove themselves to be the best back-up band going, though the absence of keyboardist extraordinaire Steve Nieve is a bit unsettling; his success as a solo artist is well deserved, but losing him permanently would definitely damage much of their appeal.
As for Elvis himself, in 10 tries he has yet to come up with a perfect album, but Goodbye Cruel World once again shows him rapidly gaining ground on that target, and — as if no one already knew — his aim is true.