Button my lip....
Released September 2004
1. Button My Lip
2. Country Darkness
3. There's A Story In Your Voice
4. Either Side Of The Same Town
6. The Delivery Man
7. Monkey To Man
8. Nothing Clings Like Ivy
9. The Name Of This Thing Is Not Love
10. Heart Shaped Bruise
11. She's Pulling Out The Pin
12. Needle Time
13. The Scarlet Tide
This was supposedly a concept album about the impact on three women's lives by a man, "the delivery man", who had a hidden past. If I hadn't read this in a review recently, I would never have known this, and I have had this album since its release. To me, and no doubt to many others, it is simply a lively, Americana-influenced piece of Costello rock. It has no real continuity or narrative. It functions just as a collection of powerful songs. It is far more of an Elvis Costello-style album than a country one, like "Almost Blue" was, despite some country stylings in places. It is also possessing of a fine, deep, bassy sound quality. Just listen to that beautiful bass on "Nothing Clings Like Ivy" and "Heart-Shaped Bruise".
"Button My Lip" is a breakneck paced opener , a real typical Costello rocker, while "Country Darkness" is an appealing country-ish ballad with some steel guitar, but also some solid, muscular drums and powerful vocal. "There's A Story In Your Voice", featuring guest duet vocals from a wired-sounding Lucinda Williams, is a huge, crashing number, really full of energy and power. You know, this is an underrated album and one I should listen to more than I do.
"Either Side Of The Same Town" is a great Costello ballad, that sounds as if it should be on "Trust", maybe. As indeed also does the "Strict Time"-ish rhythmic groove of "Bedlam". The title track is another great one - a quality, organ-driven, haunting number. It is an excellent song, packed full of atmosphere and characterisation. This is one track that seems to fit the "concept" thing, but only in isolation. "Monkey To Man" rocks solidly, with some barroom piano and catchy guitar riffs. One thing that does annoy me about Costello, however, is where, as on "The Name Of This Thing Is Not Love" he absolutely bellows the first line of the song, before the music has come in, before toning it down for the remainder of the song. "20% Amnesia" on "Brutal Youth" is another similar offender.
The remainder of the album is a similar mixture of passionately delivered slow numbers, (four in a row, in fact) great lyrics and catchy rockers like "Needle Time" and is definitely one of his most impressive albums of the 2000s yet one that rarely gets mentioned. The first half of the album is really good, the second slightly less so but it is still his strongest rock album in years - ten years, probably, since "Brutal Youth".