Brutal Youth is the album Costello's fans have been begging him to make for years. Out goes the poetry readings, the brass bands and the beard that made him look not a day over 173. In comes The Attractions, bassist Nick Lowe and a collection of pared-down songs designed to show that, in the Angry Young Troubadour stakes, Elv is still a contender.
Of course, he isn't, but that doesn't stop the man having a damned fine try. One by one Brutal Youth runs through the elements that made Costello's name in the first place. "Kinder Street" and "Clown Strike" demonstrate that he can still cut it in the acidic couplet stakes. "My Science Fiction Twin," meanwhile, somehow finds a direct energy line back to his New Wave My Aim Is True origins. Only the occasional lapse into Radio 2 sweater-wearing easy listening on tracks like "Too Soon To Know" let slip that this man is someone now more used to hanging out with Paul McCartney than Captain Sensible.
By the way, word has it that the beard is currently busy writing Wendy James' next album.