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When I Was Cruel

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iTunes Review

According to Elvis Costello himself, he’d recorded so many ballads prior to the making of 2002’s When I Was Cruel that he was in the “mood for some rowdy rhythm.” He certainly sounds energized and anxious, two traits that bode well when he sets out to rock. He also says he wrote all the songs on a Silvertone electric guitar, with a 15-watt amp and a beatbox for inspiration. Yet, while he uses loops and beatboxes, he also calls on his keyboardist extraordinaire Steve Nieve and his impeccable drummer Pete Thomas for band support. “45” begins things with a tribute to that compact, now old-fashioned method of music distribution by perfectly replicating the excitement that one quick blow should deliver in three and a half minutes, naturally. “Tear Off Your Own Head (It’s a Doll Revolution)” has plenty of crusty turns and “When I Was Cruel, No. 2” uses seven minutes to build its tension with lots of desperate sounds insinuating their way into the mix.

Customer Reviews

Elvis is still KING

Just when you thought Elvis might be getting a bit rusty along comes, "When I Was Cruel", easily Elivs' best group of songs since King of America. There's something about the title song that takes you completely by surprise. From the recurring latin-infused utterance, to the strong echo on the drums, this is not your standard Costello arrangement. But as soon as he references ABBA you know it's our good old smart alec Elvis at his biting best. Other standouts include 45, Dust part 2, Blue Window, and Tear off Your Own Head.


In terms of Costello's post millenium output, this is one of his most satisying albums for the discerning fan. The wit, the wordplay--- its all there. Cruel also gets downright experimental on Dust & Dust 2, bringing Radiohead to mind. Elsewhere Hip Hop stylings are parodied on Episode of Blonde & to a lesser extent on Spooky Girlfriend. The real standouts? Tart & Alibi. Perhaps a track or two long but as an album Cruel is far more rewarding than anything he's put out since Blood & Chocolate. If you've found alot of his 90's work to be a bit labored & self-conscious---Cruel comes off like a much needed vaction from all that.

I Tried to Keep a Straight Face...

This is a great album. Punk for the thinking person. The real high points are 45, Spooky Girlfriend, When I Was Cruel, both Dusts, Alibi and Episode of Blonde. From Episode of Blonde: "Did her green eyes seduce you and make you feel so weak? Was that fire-engine red that she left upon your cheek? It's such a shame you had to break the heart you could have counted on but the last thing you need is another Episode of Blonde!"


Born: August 25, 1954 in Paddington, London, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

When Elvis Costello's first record was released in 1977, his bristling cynicism and anger linked him with the punk and new wave explosion. A cursory listen to My Aim Is True proves that the main connection that Costello had with the punks was his unbridled passion; he tore through rock's back pages taking whatever he wanted, as well as borrowing from country, Tin Pan Alley pop, reggae, and many other musical genres. Over his career, that musical eclecticism distinguished his records as much as his...
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