David Browne
March 18, 1994 AT 05:00 AM EST

Brutal Youth

type
Book
Current Status
In Season

We gave it a B-

Just in time for what appears to be the first glimmers of new-wave nostalgia, Elvis Costello has rejoined his onetime backup band, the Attractions, for Brutal Youth, their first collaboration since the days of the Ollie North hearings. Just like old times, the 15 songs are stray bullets hitting sundry enemies — including, as always, women — and with the galloping rhythms and keyboard flourishes of his former pub mates behind him, Costello coughs up some of the old spit and bile. But as with his last few, Attractions-free albums, Costello’s new songs are frustrating, metaphor-ridden jigsaw puzzles, sung in a garble that sucks entire words and syllables into a vortex. Brutal Youth has moments of real craft — ”Just About Glad,” a nasty and grabby chronicle of an aborted love affair, or the imagery in ”My Science Fiction Twin” (”He has my eyes, my face, my voice/But he’s only happy when I’m miserable”). Mostly, though, the album shows that the 38-year-old Costello hasn’t found much to replace the lash-out rage of his own brutalizing youth. B-

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