New Zealand Herald, May 11, 2002

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When I Was Cruel

Elvis Costello

Russell Baillie


For those Costello fans from back when his lenses were thinner and his hair was thicker, this is the album they thought they were waiting for. The one where he sings jagged pop-rock songs backed by at least some of the Attractions.

Not the clever-clever Costello of his Burt Bacharach collaboration Painted From Memory (brilliant!) or last year's album For The Stars with Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie Von Otter (excruciating!).

No, this is the good old skinny-tied, pigeon-toed Elvis.

Except, for all the revived voltage, the songs aren't as memorable as the ones they beg comparison with. Certainly, "Tear Off Your Own Head" and "Daddy Can I Turn This?" could have been great lost tracks off Armed Forces; the rip-snorting "Dissolve" harks back to "Pump It Up," and both the barbed title track and "Tart" are distant cousins to his classic "I Want You."

Some tracks, like the opening "45," and "Alibi," suggest they were dashed off as word association exercises. But, just as last time he was down here on 1994's Brutal Youth, it's nice to have him back, snarling rather than crooning.

Even though he can sound like the world's best Elvis impersonator.


New Zealand Herald, May 11, 2002

Russell Baillie reviews When I Was Cruel.


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