And there's the downfall, and the lie. Abdication and relocation isn't always the map to the treasure, and a crown of thorns is a poor substitute for laurels. Oh, Costello will admit he's embarrassed by this love affair with the candyland where the Mayflower ran aground, but still he can't shake off the fascination.
When you re lookin' at me, you're lookin' at country — is that what you're saying? But on this collection of misses, hits and heartpourings, the strain of confused nationality takes away more than it can add.
More Willie Nelson than the plaintive wolftone he's wrung me with before, the voice dozes in a stock Southern ack-sayent, coasting next to top American session men who are slick because, face it, they must do what they're doing here a dozen times a day. The knock-downs and drag-outs of the slower songs say almost nothing, and when the pace does pick up its feet, only "Lovable" charges out an unrestrained slap bass charm.
As "Eisenhower Blues" lets Tom Canning play his rumpty-tumpty indigo bar piano till his fingers fall off, I ask myself if Costello has peaked and is doing no more than papering the cracks, playing by numbers like the other musos here. I still have the right to expect something fresh, but the maudlin sentiment of much of this is a man muddied by a magnificent obsession.
Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus is out of time and place, torn in two, feeling he should somehow still do the things you do when half your roots are Celtic. It's in treading those green paths that he finds his way, and gems sparkle in the grass like emeralds. I caught my breath to "Little Palaces," a heartsick Pogues — folk for a land where Prince William's stuck on walls and rats have the run of the bedrooms. When the mandolin rings bitterly and the veneer fades, the hate and spittle is justified, blanking out the pointless and tired rebellion of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood." This voice was made to rasp in London and Liverpool and Dublin, not lead beery reminiscences in downtown LA.
"American Without Tears" finds a Cajun accordion flirting it waltz time, tangible and heart-plucking in the winsome chorus; is it sacrilege, when the verses spangle so well, to say the words sometimes make a wall to shut away the melody?
It all sounds harsh, and Declan couldn't give a toss what this girl thinks, but an exiled monarch is a crying shame. "He thought he was the King of America / But it was just a boulevard of broken dreams." Ah, so that's what it was. As the final track "Sleep Of The Just" eases, aching and incandescent, through my soul, I don't know if I should forgive at once or mourn the longer.