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When I Was Cruel

4.2 out of 5 stars 144 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

COSTELLO ELVIS WHEN I WAS CRUEL

Amazon.com

Following a string of tasteful but sometimes bloodless collaborations with Sophie Van Otter, Bill Frisell, and the London Symphony Orchestra, Costello delivers his most visceral and satisfying CD in years with When I Was Cruel. Reunited with half the Attractions, Pete Thomas and Steve Nieve, Costello sticks relatively close to the sharp new-wave melodies that sealed his reputation in the late '70s and '80s, but infuses them with powerful sonic touches: a hypnotic loop of Italian pop singer Mina that carries the title track, the melodica that casts an eerie glow over "Soul for Hire," and the frenetic, klezmer-inspired horns that drive "15 Petals." Costello's guitar is frequently drenched in tremolo, and his lyrical wit hasn't been this consistently spiky and unforced since Blood & Chocolate. Compared to some of his more uptown adventures, When I Was Cruel may seem at first a kind of semi-nostalgic slumming, but the opposite may be the case: like Woody Allen, Costello is at his most artful when he produces perfect pop trifles that will almost certainly outlast his more self-conscious "serious" work. --Keith Moerer
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 23, 2002)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Island
  • ASIN: B000063526
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (144 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,671 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Karl Miller on April 23, 2002
Format: Audio CD
A lot of ink has been devoted to harking Elvis's return to the substance (if not the style) of his early triumphs, My Aim Is true and This Years Model, with this release. While both of those albums are rightfully viewed as classics, it's great to hear Elvis update his sound while maintaining his edge.
Working with Leo Pearson (U2, various electronica artists), and a number of members of the Attractions, EC has cut an album that rocks with the biting wit that has been his trademark for the past 25 years. It's a welcome addition to his catalogue, and it's a real fun album to listen to. It's also a welcome relief from the collaborative projects that have occupied his time over the last few years.
Elvis is at his best on a number of tunes on this disc. "Tear Your Own Head Off" has some blistering guitar work, and is the best song from the late seventies to be recorded in years. "Soul For Hire" has some deep, ominous sonic textures at work, much like "Watching The Detectives" (allthough it is not reggae-based). There is great use of horns on a number of tracks, particularly "Episode of Blonde". And "When I Was Cruel NO. 2" sounds like a Portishead tune, particularly with its eerie samples and tape loops. It's not something you'd expect from Elvis, but then again, his introduction of the unexpected has generally made for the best tunes on his many projects (the 50's style organ on "The Beat" comes to mind).
This album ranks right up there with "My Aim Is True", and more importantly "This Year's Model" in terms of wrenching tunefulness. Fortunately it is a breakthrough, as opposed to a revival. It's nice to hear an artist who knows what sounds work best for him, and take that to a new level. I hope Joe Jackson listens to this record and tries a similar path.
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Format: Audio CD
Costello ended the 20th century with PAINTED FROM MEMORY and his cover of "She," and many people thought he had lost his edge. It was yet another unpredictable turn from a man who had long ago proved that he was not going to be pigeonholed as just another "punk rocker." And while the work with Bachrach was in many ways another artistic triumph, one couldn't help but fear that the days of Blood & Chocolate were long gone.
Last year, he as much as confirmed this with his gentle and nuanced album with Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie Von Otter. Surely, this was the end of the thrash and noise of youth-- it was time to settle down and write symphonies and such...
Cut to 2002. WHEN I WAS CRUEL is Costello's return to the world of "rowdy" music, and yet it isn't a return at all. Some of it may feel like Blood & Chocolate's next door neighbor, but the sound is all brand new. This album is darker and funnier, playful and apocalyptic, like a mix of Dylan's last two albums thrown in a stew with a car full of clowns and some Ethiopian pop songs. Lazy critics will say he's "back and he's angry", but there aren't any songs of spiteful lovers here-- the concerns are more worldly and viewed with a spiky wit that gurgles just below the sonic soup.
WHEN I WAS CRUEL is the kind of album that is so good you can't help but hunger for what he's going to do next, be it pop, country, soul, or classical. But until that next one comes along, there is so much to enjoy here. Turn off the lights, turn up the volume, and howl at the moon...
SOUR MILK COW
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Format: Audio CD
A few notes into the opening track, my wife turned to me and said, "Elvis rocks!" Yes, this is being ballyhooed as Elvis' first rocker since All This Useless Beauty, his last album with the Attractions. Others have called it his best since Blood and Chocolate.
I dunno. I really liked Painted From Memory, and Elvis' live performances in the past few years have been wonderful, so I wasn't looking for any return to form...as far as I'm concerned, the last time Elvis really lost it was Spike and Mighty Like A Rose, and even those sound pretty good these days.
But this new one, well...Yes! This is what I really want Elvis to be doing, rocking, spewing bile, reflecting, singing in the classic Elvis voice, getting Steve Nieve to kick the Farfisa in but also adorn the songs with his incredible arrangements, tetting Pete Thomas to bash in the least and most subtle fashion, and here bring a new bass player, ex-Cracker Davey Faragher, into the fold. Elvis' singing is great, the songs are fascinating and rock hard, the arrangements are cool, and the lyrics...well it'll take a few dozen more listens but I'm sure I'll get 'em.
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Format: Audio CD
All right, I have to admit that WHEN I WAS CRUEL is the first EC album I have bought since BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE. It�s not that I didn�t like Elvis anymore, I was just getting �into� other things. Well, I�m pleased to report that WHEN I WAS CRUEL has been a very happy purchase for me, and has even got me going back and listening to (in some cases looking for) the music of my youth: English Beat, The Specials, Squeeze, The Clash, Flash and the Pan, just to name a very few.
I�ve been an EC fan since the late seventies. No, this album is not a return to THIS YEAR�S MODEL. This is an album that stands proudly on its own. Even if I had never heard of Elvis Costello I would be blown away by this record. What a great selection of songs! Starting with the bouncy �45� then sliding in to the appropriately creepy �Spooky Girlfriend,� then crash bang into �Tear Off Your Own Head.� The real stand-out tracks on this album for me are "When I Was Cruel No.2,� �Petals,� �Tart,� �Dissolve� and the in-your-face-like-it-or-not indictment �Alibi.� (I love the James Brown reference and play on words: �Papa�s . . . got a brand new . . . alibi. Alibi�)
Trying to pick a favorite track is almost impossible. It�s much easier to point out the one song that I haven�t grown too fond of as of yet: �My Blue Window.� And that�s not a bad song. For me it just doesn�t seem to fit. So far, though, I haven�t skipped this track on any listening, and that�s pretty good when my least favorite song on an album is still an enjoyable tune. Of course, it�s Elvis. And I see that at least one other reviewer picked this song out as one of their favorites, so there you are.
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