Penn State Daily Collegian, April 8, 1994

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Costello spans entire career
with latest full-length release


Mark Correa

It has always been a little difficult to pin Elvis Costello down to one musical style, and his newest album follows that mold all the way through. Brutal Youth plays like a history of Costello's musical variations.

Early in his career, Costello was grouped with the musicians of his time, the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned — assorted British punks. The raw sound of his band, The Attractions, along with the anger in some of his lyrics, made him identifiable as part of the British invasion. But his complex musical arrangements and high-pitched nasal twang kept him from truly being a "punk rocker."

The early portion of Brutal Youth mirrors this period. "Pony St.," "Kinder Murder" and "13 Steps Lead Down" all have the feel of his early days when rocking and having fun were almost as important in his music as what was being said.

As the '70s came to a close and punk began to dwindle, Costello continued to make interesting and unusual albums. During the early '80s, he was loosely grouped with other artsy rockers with an attitude, such as The Smiths, The Cure and Joe Jackson. Again, Costello didn't quite fit in. He rocked a little harder than the others did, and his lyrics were a little darker and angrier. Essentially, he was too punk for these lightweights.

The next four songs on Brutal Youth match up with this period in Costello's history. This artsy/ depressed stage shows up most prominent in the fourth track, "This is Hell." The lyrics ("This is hell / I'm sorry to tell you / it never gets better or worse") provide an interesting point to offset the slow, ballad-like quality of the music and Costello's voice.

Moving into the late '80s, Costello began experimenting a little more and his music mellowed a bit. These traits are most notable in his country-ish album, Almost Blue, and his last album, Juliet Letters, a collection of easy-listening love songs backed by a string quartet.

This experimental stage is represented by the last half of Brutal Youth. And just as most of Costello's late '80s work didn't match his earlier quality, most of the second half of the album doesn't match up to the first half. Most of the songs on Brutal Youth are typified by a mish-mash of sounds and styles that Costello just doesn't seem to put his heart into.

On Brutal Youth, Costello attempts to capture a little from each one of his periods, and succeeds.

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The Daily Collegian, April 8, 1994


Mark Correa reviews Brutal Youth.

Images

1994-04-08 Penn State Daily Collegian page 21 clipping 01.jpg
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1994-04-08 Penn State Daily Collegian page 21.jpg
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