The New York Times - Another Spin of the Musical Wheel

The New York Times: Jon Pareles: May 24th, 2011

“If I can’t cheat, who can?” he teased.

But the real and gratifying cheat was that there is, in the end, no way to keep Mr. Costello’s songs in any shallow entertainment mode. His torrents of words hold desire, rage, wounds and revenge, from the scathing personal scale of “Alison” to the historical sweep of “Oliver’s Army.” The music converges from all over — punk, soul, British Invasion, Tex-Mex, tango, country — to carry those words and sort out their emotions.

Even in music dating to the 1970s, the Imposters didn’t treat the songs as rote oldies. They were still pushing and pulling at them, putting (for instance) a guitar-scratching funk finale onto “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea.” And Mr. Costello inhabited his characters completely when he sang: all the ache, all the venom. None was more telling than “I Want You,” a slow, seething, self-lacerating and furious confession of passion and need, with jabs of bitter lead guitar. It didn’t feel like show business at all. Maybe that was the real proof of Mr. Costello’s showmanship.

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