The first hurdle you have to overcome when confronted with Spike's assault course is the bizarre sleeve. A crazy-eyed. grinning head of Costello, caked in garish clown make-up, is mounted on an electric-blue satin crest, which in turn is hanging on a tartan wall. A plaque beneath the crest reads. "The beloved entertainer," while the album title sits above in lurid-green cartoon writing. Tread carefully Elvis' evil eye casts its perverse gaze all over this marathon record.
From the caustic opening "...This Town..." ("You're nobody 'til everybody in this town thinks you're a bastard"), you are made very aware that any humour herein is carefully dipped in vitriol. "Let Him Dangle" is an ironic comment on the perpetual call for the return of capital punishment. using a real case from the Fifties as an outrageous example. Like Morrissey's "Margaret On The Guillotine" before it, "Tramp The Dirt Down" is a sullen and vengeful attack on Mrs Thatcher ("When they finally put you in the ground, they'll stand there laughing and tramp the dirt down"). "Veronica," the forthcoming single, is a deceptively bouncy pop song, co-written by Paul McCartney, which tells a sad tale of an elderly woman whose fast-fading memories are all she has to cling to.
Throughout the 14 songs on this exceptionally long LP, the music is mind-expandingly varied and imaginative. A light-footed tuba competes with a funky guitar on "Chewing Gum," while traditional Irish instruments complement the Belfast barricade-bridging "Any King's Shilling," and Spanish guitar and banjo mingle with an Indian harmonium on the hilarious "God's Comic," in which a comical priest dies and goes to Heaven and finds God lying on a water-bed drinking Coke and listening to Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Requiem.
Full marks for originality and imagination.