THE PLACE WHERE THEY TAKE YOUR SPINE...
K. H. Orton | New York, NY USA | 02/27/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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 as possible. Playing almost in mockery of stuff like "Oliver's Army". It's the sonic equivalent of burning oneself in effigy. Smothered in decidedly claustrophobic production, the whole album sounds as if Costello is hell bent on nailing The Attractions kicking & screaming 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 particualry evident on the likes of "Tokyo Storm Warning" & "Honey Are You Straight Or Are You Blind?". Costello has never sounded so pissed off.
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".
The most epic number has to be "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. One listen to later albums like BRUTAL YOUTH & USELESS BEAUTY & it's evident they were far more than a mere backing band.
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 or SONGS OF LOVE & HATE. Separating the connoisseurs from the tourists.
Solid all the way around
finulanu | Here, there, and everywhere | 04/26/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A solidly enjoyable return to rock after several years of weirdness. It kind of reminds me of This Year's Model: four-piece rock with a funk edge and lovably cheesy keyboards. And it's good. ("Uncomplicated"; "I Hope You're Happy Now"; "Honey, Are You Straight or Are You Blind?"; the jangly "Next Time Around"). The difference is, there are a few longer tracks that are great, too (the ominous rumble of "Tokyo Storm Warning"; the torch ballad of sorts "Home is Anywhere You Hang Your Head"; the possessive "I Want You", a slow, creepy build-up of a song). And Costello's undeniable songwriting skills make even weak songs like "Blue Chair" (stupid harpsichord...) and the rather unspectacular "Crimes of Paris". Other than "I Want You" none of these songs are exactly classics, but it's an all-around good album, though the fourth extended track ("Battered Old Bird") is a bit much, and the spaced-out intro to "Poor Napoleon" annoys me. Still, a very respectable album, one of Costello's best."
One of Declan's many masterpieces....
Grigory's Girl | NYC | 05/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This, along with Imperial Bedroom, is my favorite Costello/MacManus album (I actually prefer his real name, Declan MacManus). I have loved the fact that Costello has changed over the years, trying ever musical style known to man, writing probably around 1000 songs or so, and has never really made a godawful album (Goodbye Cruel World, generally considered his worst album, has some good tunes on it). Declan released 2 albums in 1986, King of America (another masterpiece), and this one. This one is much rawer and more powerful. The opener, Uncomplicated, is superb. The next one, I Hope You're Happy Now, is cool, too, but the 2 masterpieces are Tokyo Storm Warning, a breathless, amazing piece of wordplay and music, and the song I Want You is one of the best songs about love (and anger) I've ever heard. Costello has been really amazing throughout his career. He can still turns the anger on, but it never defined him as an artist or as a human being. He's not stuck in arrested development, like some rockers can be. He continues to grow as an artist. He may have started out as a punk, but he isn't a punk, and honestly, never really was. He has a ton of depth that really comes out in his music. Declan rules...
For the record, the name "Napoleon Dynamite" was a pseudonym used by Declan on this album. It was appropriated for the movie years later, even though the director claimed he never heard of this album (which I doubt personally)..."