Song of the Day #2,681: ‘Tart’ – Elvis Costello

cruelMy seventh best album of 2002 is the 21st studio album by Elvis Costello. The famously prolific Costello has released nine more albums since, though his current three-year absence is uncharacteristic.

Costello has released few perfect albums over his four-decade career (three or four by my count) but every one of his releases is distinctive. Sometimes it’s a genre play (country, classical, adult contemporary), others a thematic one (the childhood nostalgia of Brutal Youth or the short story forming the spine of The Delivery Man).

2002’s When I Was Cruel isn’t a concept album, but it was billed as Costello’s first “loud” album in years (considering it was the follow-up to the Burt Bacharach collaboration Painted From Memory, a rock album was certainly welcome by fans).

In addition to the return of the electric guitar, When I Was Cruel was notable for some out-there writing and production touches. The caustic, spoken-word epic ‘Episode of Blonde’ is a highlight, as is the French song-sampling title track.

Costello has put out plenty of excellent albums since the turn of the millennium, but this one remains the best.

Hear silver trumpets will trill
In the Arabic streets of Seville
Oranges roll in the gutter
And you pick them up
And pull back the skin
To the red fruit within

But the flavour is…
Tart
And the flavour is…
Tart
Is it something you crave?
And you say that you only feel bitterness
When you know it’s a lie, lie, lie…

Wild with a blackberry bush
There were blossoms of cherries to crush
There, at the edge of the asphalt tempting fingertips
You stain your hands, press too hard
They’ll colour your lips…

Chorus:
But the flavour is…
Tart
And the flavour is…
Tart
Is it something you crave?
‘Cos you say that you only feel bitterness
Would it kill you to show us a little sweetness?

Odd, where nothing else grows
It was something like love that she chose
Always a creature of habit
When pity would do
She wore down that heel with no feeling
She kept on her shoes

(Repeat Chorus)

Tart
And the flavour is…
Tart
And the flavour is…
Tart
And the flavour is…
Tart

Nylon was hung from a peg
And a kohl black seam ran down her leg
Fishermen look for their nets
And send their regrets
The bug lay there broken
She spoke, “Is this some kind of joke?”

(Repeat Chorus)

Tart
And the flavour is…
Tart
And the flavour is…
Tart
And the flavour is…
Tart

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2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #2,681: ‘Tart’ – Elvis Costello

  1. Dana says:

    This is definitely one of his best albums in the last 15 years, though I think Momofuko gives it a good run for best of thec21st century.

  2. Andrea Katz says:

    This is really great. been listening to Painted from Memory like crazy lately. I am becoming addicted to that voice.

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