Sweet Potato, August 29, 1984

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Goodbye Cruel World

Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Ted Drozdowski

Another pop manifesto from the guy who wrote the book on cool '80s emotionality. Goodbye Cruel World taps the compassionate vein of Costello's spring solo appearances: Intimate yet with a thinly concealed, brooding undertow as the driving crag in the works. However, as Goodbye Cruel World's title immediately reveals, this record's moodiness is closer to the surface.

That's great, because Costello has always been best when he's moodiest. His most fiery works remain the three albums crafted after emerging as post-punk's prototypical angry young man. Goodbye Cruel World is also a relief after last year's Punch The Clock. That album sounds almost minimalistic in comparison, though the lame horn charts that littered it and that were an extremely derivative nod to Elvis' R&B inspirations, have been abandoned for tasteful solo sax.

Given that Clock was an uninspired anomaly, a forced pop experiment that failed save for "Shipbuilding" and "Everyday I Write The Book," Goodbye Cruel World is the superbly crafted sequel to Imperial Bedroom, the album that earned Elvis his Wolf badge for songwriting par excellence. Bedroom's sleek textures have been updated with a near-matrix approach that has keyboards (there's a lot of synthesizer here, though it's never dominant), guitars, bass, drums and sax meshed as closely as a basket of snakes, weaving in turn from top to bottom and through the elegant harmonies with which Elvis spins his tales of bad-taste relationships and spiritual angst.

The material, in general, reflects the atmosphere of Costello's most recent solo tour. "Peace In Our Time," "The Great Unknown," "The Only Flame In Town," "Home Truth," "Worthless Thing," and sucker singalong "Inch By Inch" were all out to air on that tour, though only "Inch By Inch" retains much of the same spare, vaguely menacing approach that Elvis took solo. He chooses to rock out just twice, on "Sour Milk-Cow Blues" and "The Deportees Club," but sensitivity and wit are the magic in his work and both are unfailing on Goodbye Cruel World. This is one of the year's few outstanding records.

Tags: Goodbye Cruel WorldThe Attractions1984 US Solo TourPeace In Our TimeThe Great UnknownThe Only Flame In TownHome TruthWorthless ThingInch By InchSour Milk-Cow BluesThe Deportees ClubPunch The ClockShipbuildingEveryday I Write The BookImperial Bedroom

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Sweet Potato, August 29 - September 12, 1984

Ted Drozdowski reviews Goodbye Cruel World.


1984-08-29 Sweet Potato page 12 clipping 01.jpg

Page scan.
1984-08-29 Sweet Potato page 12.jpg


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