Just as with this album's predecessor Ten Bloody Marys & Ten Hows Your Fathers, it's in Elvis Costello's out-takes, B-sides and doodles that his dilemma emerges most intriguingly.
The man would love to write songs as moving as those that inspired him. But he can only express himself in the language of past pop itself, giving much of his work an ironic playfulness that often precludes your innocent, response.
For instance, it is not quite the paradox it first seems that one of his finest hours, "I Want You," depended on his self-consciously stripping away artifice from his waterfall of naked Jealousy. After all, he had to model the feel of the song on John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band to do it.
Alternatively, consider "Blue Chair" (the single version rather than the Blood And Chocolate album track) included here. The organ part is so like Booker T And The MGs' "Time Is Tight" that it's obviously meant to remind you of that 1969 oldie. Why? Perhaps he merely wants you to go back to the old records, which is why he and Nick Lowe recorded the Bacharach/David classic "Baby It's You" — to direct your attention to the original performance by The Shirelles for one thing, and to have a bit of studio fun, for another.
Cheerful music-buff style-monger or imprisoned by the best ears in the country? Is he saying our emotions are shaped and coloured by the songs that soundtrack our lives — or only that his are? A natural or merely a genius? A few clues here. Not to mention several fine songs.