Back when I was learning the art of nose-picking, Elvis Costello was writing many of the songs that would later establish his reputation as one of the great song writers of our time.
It is this seamless ability to write great tunes by combining bitter lyrics, pop hooks and jazz influences, that is evident in his latest compilation release Girls Girls Girls.
This is an album which features no new material, but scores of old and recent songs. The songs are arranged not chronologically, but in some cryptic order we know nothing of but which, Elvis insists in the liner notes, exists. Spanning his now more than a decade-long career, the album is a great introduction to the blood spattered beauty Elvis can create in a song. If you don't own any Costello, this is a much better place to start than the now defunct "Greatest Hits" album released at least five years ago.
The album rightly ignores the all too popular Spike collection and combines classics like "Allison", "Watching The Detectives", King of America", and "Pump It Up", with other less popular greats such as "Tokyo Storm Warning", Sleep Of The Just", "Shabby Doll", and "(I Don' t Want To Go To) Chelsea." So if you do and you bloody well should — have some past albums, you might still consider this work as it will probably have at least a couple of great tunes you've never heard.
The liner notes of Girls Girls Girls contain blurbs about each song; for me, the album is worth buying just for Elvis' ruminations on his rocky rise to his justified position as God of Vitriolic Pop. When Elvis Costello first started out, they told him he couldn't sing. Even though (depending what format you own) some Costello masterpieces will inevitably be missing, it won't take anybody long to realize how wrong those critics were, and how poignant and biting the best of his songs will always be.