I've been a fan of Elvis Costello since he started, but sometimes I think his prolific nature outruns his creativity. Especially now, he seems to be putting out an album every year, each one sort of a revisit of a style he did extremely well 20 years ago. Is he cashing in on his fame like DeNiro? Is he just cranking out new stuff whether anyone is listening or not, like Woody? Or is he still a vital artist, putting out great songs and great performances as he did for so many years at the start of his career? Which of Costello's albums of the past decade do you think merits consideration alongside his classic work from the 70s and 80s?
EC is as relevant as he ever was to his army of fans. Although I still enjoy the indulgent anger which fueled his early masterpieces, e.g. This Years Model and Blood and Choclate, I am delighted that his more recent works allow more emotional fluidity; which was always there to a degree, but has really blossomed since he began collaborating with other artists--particulary The River in Reverse with Allen Toussaint. My personal favorite that he's turned out in the past 15 years is the Delivery Man.
I love "When I Was Cruel." I was wondering whether there was a consensus among EC fans that it was his best of the past decade. It would get my vote.
I liked "The Delivery Man" at first, but didn't feel compelled to play it after the first few times, although "Monkey to Man" is a great song. I downloaded a few songs off Momofuku and was disappointed, but felt also like I never gave it a chance.
"When I Was Cruel" is one of my favorites and definitely one of EC's better "loud" albums in the past 10 years, but I still find myself hitting the skip button on particular songs.
With "The Delivery Man" EC delivers all of the energy found in the best of "When I Was Cruel" or even "Brutal Youth", but unlike these two has an emotional breadth and sense of completeness that is rare for any recording. I can't count the number of times I've put TDM on and listened to it all the way through and then just hit the repeat button and listened to it again.
I'm a fan, not a music critic, but to me TDM is one of EC's best, period--across his entire catalogue. I would love to her an entire album of EC performing with Lucinda Williams or Emilou Harris.
EC's willingness to experiment, collaborate, and evolve as an artist is precisely what makes him as relevant as he ever was. Listen to the highly autobiographical song "International Echo" on "The River in Reverse" (or "There's a Story" and "Bedlam" on TDM) and ask yourself whether EC's continued prolific output is sub-par in comparison to his early stuff.
I enjoy the diversity of his work, that being said I think that he's been riding a new high point for the last few albums. I don't know if it's the comfort with his band ( which makes me a little nervous about this album since The Imposters have taken the day off ) but I've listened to his current albums a lot, with the exception of River In Reverse, which I'm trying to give a better chance than I originally did.
Go to elviscostello.com and you can listen to the new album in its entirety for free. I listened to it this weekend while doing other things on the computer and enjoyed it alot. My impression is that there will more Imposter albums, but who knows . . .
I think his prolific nature and genre experimentation have allowed him to continue creating high quality music, much deeper into his career than most other musicians. Certainly, when you approach 3 dozen albums, between collaborations, work with the Attractions/Imposters, and solo projects, there are gonna be misses, there's gonna be a period that people hold everything up to in comparison. But, I think he's remained driven musically, even the projects that supposedly call back to his "classic" people, don't sound like the feeble grab for past glory that some others resort to. They somehow still sound like part of movement forward. To me at least, an album like Momofuku sounded like a natural event in his musical career. And likewise, his latest country/bluegrass/folk journey sounds right in place.
I too have loved Elvis since the "My Aim Is True" days, but yeah - I think he's getting a bit tired, and rehashed. The last truly brilliant thing to come from him was "The Juliet Letters", which I thought was genius. "Brutal Youth" was the last contemporary album of his to get heavy rotation on the CD player; everything that has followed, has paled. I would rather have to wait 2 or 3 years for something entirely great from him than shell out $15 a year for something that sounds like leftovers.
I definitely wouldn't compare Costello to DeNiro as of late ('Hide And Seek' and 'Righteous Kill,' are you kidding me?) or completely to Woody Allen because Costello's material still remains relatively strong. I think a lot of the "past glories" talk is more about the marketing of the album. I didn't think that 'Momofuku' sounded a whole lot like his early few albums, nor did 'When I Was Cruel'. 'The Delivery Man' definitely didn't remind me of 'King Of America' a whole lot, like it was probably supposed to. The problem with Costello is that he has a huge body of work with styles as diverse as new wave to country to classical, so the people marketing his albums need some kind of reference point to compare his recent work to. I got the album today through my work and have yet to listen to it but I won't be surprised if it sounds only vaguely similar to his earlier forays into country and folk music. On a side note, in reference to the original post: I think his last 5-star album is probably 'Blood & Chocolate' but he has many 4-star albums past that one. I'm in the minority here on this one, but I like 'Momofuku' more than any other "recent" album of his.
Probably just a coincidence, but Elvis's offerings since Bruce Thomas left have pretty much sucked, and it sounds like he's continuing to circle the drain with this latest release. I miss the angry Elvis spewing venom. The new Elvis SOUNDS like an aging musician with a jazz playing wife who burps his twins when off tour. I'm waiting for the divorce so I can have my pissed-off Elvis back!
Expecting a man nearing his 60's to "return" to the inspirations of his youth is more than a tad pointless. Especially someone as inquisitive as Costello. The early stuff is forever imprinted on me -- and still gets plenty of iPod play, but there have been moments of greatness in all his recent albums. And a middling Costello album is still better than 95% of everything else out there.
Maybe I'm just an aging music fan, but I find that "River in Reverse", "Dust", "Bedlam" and numerous other recent tracks are complex, listenable and will be in my rotation for many years ahead.
As for whether Bruce Thomas made Elvis better or the other way around, look at what Bruce has done in the past couple of decades. The bassist Nick Lowe made Bruce better than Bruce could make Bruce.
Funny that you mention it, because I have been saying for years that he is the Woody Allen of music (both are 2 of my heroes, so I have no problem with it.) However, not because he's getting older, and putting out a lot (too much?) material. But because, both of them are highly respected in their fields, and everybody wants to work with them. It's looks good on their résumés. Simple as that!
Of his recent records, I enjoyed The Delivery Man quite a bit. Didn't get into Momofuku and upon first listen to the newest CD I'm not hopeful. My favorite has always been King of America and think Mighty Like a Rose was sorely under appreciated. I think Elvis still has good records to come - at least I'm hoping!
If you have any doubt at all of Elvis' recent genius you need to go out and see him live. Whether it be with the Imposters, the sugarcanes, or solo you will understand what makes him one of the greatest artists out there.
That's true -- I had somehow managed to miss him all these years, and then finally heard him with the Imposters in Shreveport on the Momofuku tour, and it was a great show, despite the terrible acoustics. They played in a casino! There were a couple of times when they just cranked it up and let the guitars create this massive distortion, like a psychedelic Dead show at the Avalon, but when they turned it down you could hear every word of his excellent voice, and every nuance.
I think the new album is fantastic, and has really grown on me. "North" from his recent history is also a standout effort. "No Hiding Place" from Momofuku is as good a rocker as he has ever written, both musically and lyrically. But he hasn't really recorded a masterpiece full-length CD/album since 1986 (King of America), to go along with his earlier A+ records (My Aim is True, Armed Forces, Get Happy!!, Imperial Bedroom). "Side A" of "Painted from Memory" is up there, but the disc slides once you get into the later tracks, and "My Thief" is a bona fide dud. So yeah, Elvis' records are not of the same calibre as his incredible 1977-1986 stretch of pop music brilliance. But who else has had a period that long with that much creativity and excellent songwriting? I hope he has another masterpiece in him, but in the meantime, I'll be happy to keep deriving pleasure from his good to very good albums, with the occasional "Scarlet Tide"-type masterpiece track mixed in.
I felt that "North" was a horrible album but like this one quite a bit. As for others who have exhibited as much creativity with a short span of time...Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Ian Hunter, The Kinks, Roxy Music, The Rolling Stones, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Joni Mitchell, David Blue, U2, XTC....I could go on. I love EC but there are others that have had very, very productive/creative periods.