Once a rebellious bookworm punk in over-sized horn-rimmed glasses, Costello sang about alienation, deceit and the bitterness bad relationships breed. Now a hairy hippie wearing wire-rimmed glasses, he's a complete outsider.
He's still struggling under the same oppression of life's injustices, and he's pretty bitter at thirty-something.
Costello spins a neurotic tale in "Sweet Pear," a song about a man who thinks all relationships are doomed to failure. The character, a self-termed "stupid lover, wretched groom," is so obsessed with thoughts of his wife leaving him that he cannot enjoy their relationship while it lasts.
Costello is also bitter about the human condition ("The Other Side Of Summer"), setting himself up as the archetypal fool who feels his emotions are beyond his control. "The sun struggles up another beautiful day / And I felt glad in my own suspicious way / Despite the contradiction and confusion / Felt tragic without reason / There's malice and there's magic in every season."
On "Invasion Hit Parade" Costello also portrays an aging hipster railing against society: "I'd rather go back in the sweet underground / Where I can tell the time by the color of my skin / And I know my neighbor cause he's the one, yes he's the one / Who always turns me in."
His anguish helps his art, though, which is also supported by musical experimentation with The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and he renders a record as eclectic as any other in his catalog.