Penn State Daily Collegian, April 25, 2002

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Elvis stakes ground as great rocker
on 'When I Was Cruel'

Reid Coploff

Sometime in between when Buddy Holly and Rivers Cuomo made it cool to sport geeky glasses while rocking away, there was Elvis Costello.

In recent years Costello has been more visible in partnership with an opera singer and a pop maestro, but with his newest release When I Was Cruel, Elvis is back in a big way.

The guitar is there. The keyboards are there. The acerbic wit is there. The intelligent quickly delivered lyrics are there. This is classic Elvis for all of those who aren't familiar with his earlier work.

The songs range from full-blown rockers to laid-back vocally driven songs. And he does them all well. There are really no missteps during the 15 songs that last over an hour.

On the excellent "Tear Off Your Own Head (It's a Doll Revolution)" loud guitars greet the listener before Costello's vocals come streaming out Soon the keyboard has kicked in and it's a full-blown Costello moment. The song sounds like it would fit perfectly on his early classic albums.

"15 Petals" starts slowly with Costello singing over top of low guitars and then suddenly wild horns arc blaring away behind him. The song is an excellent example of how Costello manages to use an eclectic arc ay of instruments to create his signature sound.

"Dissolve" is probably the loudest and most rock 'n' roll of any song on the album. Costello screams his lyrics over driving guitars and there's even a little harmonica sprinkled through the song.

The slower "Tart" starts with Elvis' moaning backed by a keyboard, but there's more to it than this as the song builds to an all out noise explosion halfway through the song only to go back to the softer sounds for the end of the song.

Another softer highlight is "My Little Blue Window" which features a catchy sing-along chorus and classic Costello bitterness as he sings, "Nothing in this ugly world comes easily"

"Episode of Blue" finds Costello spitting out the lyrics during the verses at a pace so fast he's nearly rapping All the while horns, an organ and all sorts of other instruments are crunching along behind him. Costello does a quick change-up for the chorus as he reveals his beautiful voice and then goes back and forth between vocal styles throughout the song.

Perhaps the best song on the album is the slow lament, "Alibi," as Costello lashes out at a former love. The song is long and repetitive but he somehow manages to pull it off. The song also displays his edgy cynicism as he croons, "I love you just as much as I hate your guts."

With this, his first solo album in six years, Costello has taken up where he left off over 15 years ago. This isn't a comeback so much as a return to form. Costello has remained at least marginally in view, but now with When I Was Cruel he's ready to fully be proclaimed as one of America's greatest rockers.


The Daily Collegian, April 25, 2002

Reid Coploff reviews When I Was Cruel.


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2002-04-25 Penn State Daily Collegian page 20.jpg
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