When he debuted four years ago on Columbia Records, Elvis Costello set a standard for new artists that grew like an epidemic. Now that the novelty of new wave music has worn off, Costello has struck a harmonious note with his sixth album, Trust that suggests that his talents go beyond the label of new wave.
The important element in Trust is the irony of the title. Figuring out Costello is not an easy job. In the past, he has worked around the theme of "an angry young man" who holds resentment for past lovers and the society he lives in. That theme carries the bigger part of the new album, although at times he seems to soften his viewpoint: "Pretty words don't mean much anymore. I don't mean to be mean much anymore..." (from "Pretty Words.")
Another important element is that Costello has regained his flair for the "knockout" song that was missing from his last two LPs. Trust boasts several excellent cuts, including a stirring duet with Glenn Tilbrook of the Squeeze on "From a Whisper to a Scream," one of Costello's best compositions to date.
Backed by his three-piece band the Attractions, Elvis rolls through the first thirteen songs with both energy and finesse, accented by the piano riffs of Steve Nieve. Nieve's keyboard work suggests the style of classical artists at times, best exemplified on the ballad "Shot With His Own Gun."
This song is probably the most important one on the album, since it varies drastically from the usual Elvis/Attractions format of upbeat 60's rock.
The verbal jewels Costello constructs are witty and effective in most instances, reaffirming his grasp on the art of lyric writing. "You better speak up now if you want your piece / you'd better speak up now, it won't mean a thing later / Yesterday's news is tomorrow's fish n' chip papers," he sings on "Fish n' Chip Papers," as Bruce Thomas leaps and bounds on the bass guitar.
Another asset to the Costello sound is the production talent of Nick Lowe, formerly of the group Rockpile. Lowe, who has produced all of the artist's albums (with the exception of a few tracks) gives the Attractions a "live" sound that lends a favorable ear. Trying to add studio effects to the tight sound of the band would muddle the sound, as evidenced in "Big Sister's Clothes," the only dismal cut on the record.
Lowe also plays tricks with Costello's bluesy voice, making him sound a lot like his namesake on "Luxembourg." His influences in 60's pop music surfaces in "You'll Never Be a Man" and "White Knuckles," the latter being a whimsical view of wife-beating.
"White knuckles on black and blue skin / Didn't mean to hit her but she kept laughing..." he sings.
It is lines like this that make one wonder what there is to trust about Elvis Costello. One thing appears certain however we can trust his musical talent to bring us the best in pop/rock music.