Reunited with the Attractions for the first time since the Blood and Chocolate sessions of the mid-'80s, you'd expect the cleverest Elvis to use the occasion to rock out with multi-syllabic abandon, but Brutal Youth is one of the bespectacled one's politest offerings to date.
But attitude is relative isn't it? Costello is far too literate a rocker to be satisfied with crafting angst-filled platitudes like the grungy wankers that have so many critics in a tizzy these days.
Still, nobody wields a verbal cutlass or turns a phrase quite like EC. Whether musing on the inconvenience of having a doppelganger that feeds off of his emotional pain in "My Science Fiction Twin" or the middle-brow comedy of the circus work stoppage he describes in "Clown Strike," Costello is perceptive to a precious fault.
As scabrous as his wit is, Costello can't help but couch it in a pop context that's far less intimidating than it once was.
There's nothing wrong with a strategy that highlights one's strength, and Costello remains unrivaled on the lyrical front, but there has to be a more contemporary expression for the anger he's given such brilliant display to since his punk days in the late '70s.
The pop arena is full of intriguing experiments of the sort he'd do well to look at.
Meanwhile, Brutal Youth is slightly better than his last great pop-effort, Spike, and 100 times better than his pretentious last album, The Juliette Letters, thanks to the presence of Pete and Bruce Thomas, Steve Nieve and Nick Lowe.
Not exactly My Aim Is True, but better than most of the top 10.