Friday, 3 August 2018

Elvis Costello & The Attractions - Goodbye Cruel World (1984)


  

Released June 1984

Recorded at Sarm West Studios, London

This was widely accepted as a nadir in Elvis Costello & The Attractions' recording career - his "Never Let Me Down", his "Dirty Work". Even Costello himself dismissed it as their worst piece of work. Tensions were high between Costello and bassist Bruce Thomas at the time and Costello disbanded his high-successfulband soon afterwards. Thomas would only return briefly, in the nineties, and when he did, they fell out again. I actually quite like the album in parts, strangely enough. There is some good material on it, but you always get the impression that the production went awry somewhat and some of what were potentially good songs ended up sounding a bit half-baked.

This is true of tracks like "The Comedians" and "Joe Porterhouse" - they have some great lyrics, the usual Costello couplets but they don't seem to quite reach their potential. There is still a lot of synthesised pop abounding, a left over from the previous year's "Punch The Clock". However, the slick, polished, laid-back poppy vibe intended to be achieved on "The Only Flame In Town" and the jazzy, smoky "I Wanna Be Loved" largely gets there, for me. Both these tracks are different from Costello, and all the better for it. "Home Truth" is a typical, clunky piano-driven slow number, as also is the atmospheric and jazzy "Inch By Inch". "Room Without A Number" is a lively, invigorating shuffle rocker, while "Worthless Thing" and "Love Field" are two of my favourite Costello songs. The former is lyrically and musically beguiling, with an addictive hook and an excellent Costello vocal, while "Love Field" is mysterious, brooding and sublime in places. Listening to these tracks I have to say that this is not a bad album at all, certainly nowhere near as bad as many have said it is, and, for me, I definitely prefer it to "Punch The Clock". The sound on it is excellent too.

The old "Side Two" of the album includes the two tracks I mentioned earlier that don't quite make it and a couple of raucous, Costello-blues in "Sour Milk Cow Blues" and "The Deportees Club". Both are lively enough, but a bit throwaway if I am brutally honest. "The Great Unknown" is another that doesn't quite get there. However "Peace In Our Time" is the one true Costello classic that always comes up with, whatever the album. It is moving, meaningful and backed by some excellent brass.

As I said, this is not a truly awful album, not in any way, but this is Elvis Costello we are talking about. The mid eighties were a truly dreadful time for music. Elvis Costello simply suffered during it, as did everyone else. This definitely marked the end of Elvis Costello as a pop performer, however.

C

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