Elvis Costello is back and once again offers something new — not that he is one to avoid monotony through gimmicks; rather, he retains continuity in his music, which is only altered through stylistic changes or the latest influences he has encountered. In the past he has dabbled in jazz, blues and country (lots of country). He has no clear influences outside of rock-n-roll. Blood and Chocolate reaffirms that Costello is first and foremost a performer of rock-n-roll. This does not mean that his music is straightforward, simple, power rock. On the contrary, it contains the subtleties and numerous, catchy runs for which he has always been praised.
About the LP, clearly the most-poppish songs have immediate appeal. "Hope You're Happy Now," a tune written in 1984 yet previously unreleased, and "Crimes of Paris" are clearly the most accessible, being hummable after only one or two listenings. These two are good representatives of the lyrical content of the album; either they are something as simple as jealous love (as seen in the former) or, in the case of the latter, the lyrics become so allusion-saturated that the meaning may be somewhat unclear.
New to Costello on this album are songs which run over six minutes, especially considering that in his earlier years he was notorious for sub-two-minute songs. "Tokyo Storm Warning" would have potential pop power were it not for its length, which can become tiresome if one is not particularly in the mood for duration music. The other long track, "I Want You," is perhaps one of Costello's best love songs ever — it is for this type song that Costello's raspy-throat singing is best.
The rest of Blood and Chocolate should not be forgotten, especially the opening track, "Uncomplicated," which retains the grinding fervor of his younger years: definitely calculated caterwauling. "Poor Napoleon" and "Home Is Where You Hang Your Head" are two other bright spots on this record. Both slow songs, they seem to have the lyrical insight which gives Costello's songs added appeal.
Overall, this is an excellent album, but then again I would say that all of Elvis Costello's are excellent; some are definitely better albums than others. I can't say how this stacks up against the rest — only time will tell. On its own, this would be one record that those interested in progressive pop would not want to overlook. If you don't like it the first time you play it, put it away and wait three months... play it again... you will like it then.