The Spectator, February 18, 1989

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The Spectator

UK & Ireland magazines


Call her madam

Elvis Costello / Spike

Marcus Berkmann


... Even so, after all these identikit white soul records, I do find myself craving something with a little more bite. Elvis Costello's Spike (WEA) fortunately has as much bite as a killer shark, and provides a welcome antidote to the smoothness and slickness of everything else you listen to these days. That's not to say that it is badly recorded or played — on the contrary, the whole is immaculately performed and expertly produced. Costello has used the hugely increased budget of his new worldwide deal with WEA to record an even more spiky, arcane and uncompromising album than usual — one that takes at least half a dozen listens before you can even work out what is going on. At over an hour long, it's hugely eclectic, spanning New Orleans blues, gospel music and Irish folk, with a strong Tom Waits influence throughout. With Paul McCartney co-writing two tracks (including the sublime single "Veronica"), it's the sort of album that upsets expectations at every turn — marred only by the dreariest Irish folk tune in memory, "Tramp The Dirt Down," which turns out just to be an attack on ... well, here's a clue: "When England was the whore of the world / Margaret was her madam." Take another ten points, and a GCSE in Political Theory.

Perhaps pop singers are nearer to something than they know. I mean, can you imagine anyone singing "Neil Kinnock / What a bald git"? Perhaps it's just me, but somehow I can't see it....

Tags: SpikeWEANew OrleansTom WaitsPaul McCartneyVeronicaTramp The Dirt DownMargaret Thatcher


The Spectator, February 18, 1989

Marcus Berkmann reviews Spike.


1989-02-18 The Spectator page 39.jpg 1989-02-18 The Spectator page 40.jpg
Page scans.

1989-02-18 The Spectator cover.jpg


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