Though advance copies of a Costello compilation of 21st century songs, Pomp & Pout, have been circulating for months, its street date has been put back to some time in 2011. The delay is arguably due to Elvis, ever the spontaneous master of his own destiny, rushing out yet another album of new material, his third in two-and-a-half years.
It’s a work rate comparable to his late 70s beginnings, albeit met by significantly less sales; but today’s Costello seems unconcerned with the bottom line, happily making the music he wants to, when he wants to. National Ransom was recorded in just 11 days, a similar timescale to 2008’s Momofuku, and there are garage-like elements of that album on the chug of the title track and the Merseybeat scream of "The Spell That You Cast." Last year’s Secret, Profane & Sugarcane is the template for the country gallop of "Five Small Words" and saloon lament "That’s Not The Part Of Him You’re Leaving."
Where its two predecessors stuck to loose musical themes, however, here Costello is in eclectic mood, all jazz torch on "You Hung The Moon," vaudevillian biographer on "Jimmie Standing In The Rain" (a terrific portrait of a cowboy singer down on his luck on the 30s English music hall circuit), and raging preacher of doom on "Church Underground." This is a densely plotted, constantly surprising record that contains some of his best songs for years. It may take a while to fully digest its glorious contents, by which time Costello will probably have another album ready for us!