Ranking this one was tough. I had to balance the warm bath of nostalgia with the sobering effects of time, then sprinkle in a dash of ‘one amazing song lifting up a whole album.’ Given all that, fourth place feels about right.
A sticker on the album’s cover promised it was his best, most inventive work since Imperial Bedroom, which was overselling it, but it does have its share of baroque gems.
Among their compositions were McCartney’s hit ‘My Brave Face,’ from his Flowers in the Dirt album and Costello’s hit ‘Veronica,’ which appeared on Spike.
Critics liked to draw a comparison between Costello and John Lennon, saying that McCartney was at his best when his saccharine tendencies (and unparalleled gift for melody) were paired with a more cynical and downbeat partner. And while Costello/McCartney never really approached the quality of Lennon/McCartney, it was by all accounts a successful pairing.
I consider this album the bridge between Costello’s classic years and the more wide-ranging experimental work he did later in his career. And I guess the real surprise is that this album is now nearly 20 years old, and he’s recorded more albums since its release than he did beforehand.
It’s not the Elvis Costello Weekends that are moving quickly… it’s my whole life!
Probably the most notable thing about Costello’s next album, Mighty Like a Rose, is the monstrous beard he grew to accompany its release. Costello says he grew the beard to get through an Irish winter and kept it around because it irritated people so much.
The songs, for the most part, aren’t as memorable as Costello’s facial hair. About half of the 14 tracks are forgettable and the rest are just a little bit above average. But there is one major exception. The album’s final track, a circus hymn with the oddball title ‘Couldn’t Call It Unexpected No. 4,’ could well be my favorite Elvis Costello song of all time.