It's one of music's biggest events of the year. Elvis Costello and his band, the Attractions, are on tour once again with their brazen, yet eloquent style.
Notable events for the band and its fans:
■ After eight years, the group has reunited and hasn't wasted any time hitting the bigger bookings. Recently, they appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman.
■ They've just released a hot new album, Brutal Youth (Warner Bros.), featuring the hit single, "13 Steps Lead Down."
■ Last, but not least for Puget Sound fans, they're coming back to Seattle. The group plays a sold-out show at the Paramount Theatre on Thursday as part of its North American tour.
It's good to see Elvis back with his old band — drummer Pete Thomas, keyboardist Steve Nieve and bass player Bruce Thomas. Nick Lowe, who produced earlier Costello albums, also played on the latest album.
"The name of the album is Brutal Youth, so I thought what was needed was a group of youthful brutes, and the Attractions were the natural choice," Costello said in a press release from his record company.
"Apart from that, I believe they are the greatest group in the world, so having Nick Lowe along is a real luxury," said Costello, 39.
Most longtime fans will be pleased with the new album, a departure from the previous The Juliet Letters. Letters was a collaboration with the Brodsky Quartet, a classical chamber group.
There are strong songs here, with both lyrics and music written by Costello. He pays tribute to the Kinks in "London's Brilliant Parade," playing dobro, as Ray Davies did on "Lola."
But in the same song, Costello, born Declan Patrick MacManus, also pays tribute to his personal history and his birth city of London. The lyrics recall the Hammersmith Palais, where his father, Ross MacManus, sang from 1955-1969 with the Joe Loss Dance Orchestra.
"Rocking Horse Road" recounts the time Costello got lost in a neighborhood in New Zealand after getting sunburned on a beach. "It just became like the twilight zone," he recently told Musician magazine.
"13 Steps Lead Down," the hit single, was written while he visited Franco's tomb in Spain. It also pokes fun at 12-step, self-help programs.
"There's no desire to sound like a rehash of the records that we did (1978-86)," Costello has said of working with the Attractions again. "Anything that is reminiscent of it musically is there because I think it's the right music for the song."
Longtime fans will enjoy hearing the Attractions' sound once more. While most critics have delivered compliments on the new stuff, others have said the music is sometimes too busy.
"I deliberately made the music crude," Costello said. "I know it's going to offend some people, while others will dig it because it's very throwaway.
"Other people are going to be slightly ill at ease with it because it isn't crafted or something. But it's a sort of a template of how to play like this."