Like sex and pizza, even bad E.C. is still pretty good
A.B. | Los Angeles, CA | 02/04/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I have been an Elvis Costello fan since I purchased cassettes of "Trust" and "Armed Forces" in the discount bin at a mall record store chain in the mid-80s. I'd liked what I'd heard from him prior to my first official purchase, but those two albums converted me into an official fan, as opposed to a casual listener.
I had never been interested in purchasing "Goodbye Cruel World," because I'd heard a couple songs from it and they just sounded like Elvis being infected by the 80s cheese that engulfed all music at that time.
However, my Monopoly-like obsession to own everything by artists I love coupled with Rhino's lauded reissues of his catalog (and the realization that they are out of print and will soon be rare or insanely expensive) inspired me to go ahead and pick this up just so I'd know what the fuss is all about.
I've listened to it about 10 times all the way through and while it is certainly not a great album, there are some great songs on here that have, in most cases, been executed (i.e. produced) poorly. The songs are victims of the 80s. And Elvis isn't the only artist this happened to (see also Bruce Springsteen, Pete Townshend, Tom Petty, to name three), although he's the only one who has admitted it so vocally.
But if you can look past the synths and the glossy production, you'll find some hidden gems including, "Home Truth," "Joe Porterhouse" and "Peace in Our Time."
If you are just discovering Elvis Costello's music, this is not the place to start (buy one of the many "best of" collections to get a sampling of his vast catalog - I normally wouldn't recommend compilations, but for E.C. there are too many good albums of varying styles to recommend just one), but if you are a serious fan, it's worth delving into this one, if only to hear something new.
I was surprised when these songs actually started clicking with me. At first listen I was not into them at all. But on repeated listens, his complex song structures started making more sense and I realized this collection isn't half bad.
Reading the liner notes and learning just how unhappy Elvis was with how this one turned out makes listening to it that much more interesting. But like I said, only a fan would care.
This is what makes this release that much better than previous issues. Including so many of the demos gives context to what Elvis describes in the liner notes. He wanted one thing, but the producers wanted something different than that. The result is the less than stellar "Goodbye Cruel World". But even bad Elvis Costello is better than most, and as mentioned above, there are some decent songs on this.