Years ago, Randy Newman, asked about Elvis Costello, said something to the effect that he could dash off 10 of those songs in an hour.
The good news is that EC’s latest has 15 of those songs: dark, moody, some a little dangerous; most rock ominously. This ain’t this year’s Armed Forces — really fast guitar music is for youngsters who think bursitis is Mexican food—but the Angry Young Man has emerged from his scary Burt Bacharach stage as Sensibly Pissed-Off Mid-Age Riffer. The younger EC would catch an image or a pang of rage and a song was wrought. Here are tales told—a complete story, a metaphor realized—coupled with customarily oblique songs that refuse to show ID, no matter how often you tap their window with a flashlight. This is where EC’s voice belongs, amid what, sonically, may be his best album: whispering, maintaining radio silence from now on, a principled place for the likes of him.