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THE PLACE WHERE THEY TAKE YOUR SPINE...,
This review is from: Blood & Chocolate (Audio CD)
Welcome to "the place where they take your spine & turn it into soap flakes"...
Costello has always been angry, he built his reputation on it. But on Blood & Chocolate, all kid gloves are off. Those great pop hooks & bitter turns of phrase are there, but here he deliberately keeps things as ugly and brutal as possible. Playing almost in mockery of stuff like "Oliver's Army". It's the sonic equivalent of elegantly burning oneself in effigy with a bloody hammer. Smothered in decidedly claustrophobic production, it feels like a drunken brawl in a broom closet. One gets the sense Costello is hell bent on nailing The Attractions kicking & screaming down into his own coffin.
"Uncomplicated" clangs in like a ringside bell. One immediately gets the sense that everyone's playing in the dark, pissed as hell, determined to beat any semblance of melody into a pulp. Steve Neive hits the Wulitzer like a drunken carny. Pete Thomas seems to be pounding on the decapitated heads of those he hates. As if in spiteful opposition, Bruce Thomas plays as if he's creeping up to push the shiv in. As for Costello, he gleefully lives up to the self-deprecating nickname "little hands of concrete", spitting out his lyrics as if he couldn't stand the taste of them.
In short, everyone seems to be hell bent on playing their instruments as if they were billy clubs, flogging the same damn horse. This is particularly evident on the likes of "Tokyo Storm Warning" and "Honey Are You Straight Or Are You Blind?" Elsewhere, the atmosphere could only be described as perverse. "Poor Napolean" reeks of a 10 day bender & "Anywhere You Hang Your Head" is the sonic equivalent of a suicidal hangover.
A major highlight is "I Want You". Easily one of the creepiest & most powerful songs Costello & Co. have ever recorded. I suppose the whole album could be summed up with the lines, "the truth can't hurt you, it's just like the dark/ it scares you witless but in time you see things clear & stark". But the most epic number is "Battered Old Bird". Despite it's maudlin tone, never has the boardinghouse come so close to Bedlam. The characters are more like inmates from an asylum than tenants. He's never recorded anything like it.
In the liner notes Costello confesses that B & C sounds like a "pissed off 32 year old divorcee's" answer to the likes of This Year's Model. It also could be considered the sound of Costello not only breaking up with The Attractions, but himself as well. After this dark night of the soul, things were never quite the same.
This album is definitely not for beginners or fickle fans who could never get beyond the first three albums. It's his Tonight's The Night, Station to Station or Songs of Love & Hate. Separates the connoisseurs from the tourists.