Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Costello Show (Featuring Elvis Costello)

  • King of America [Columbia, 1986] A-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

King of America [Columbia, 1986]
The Attractions always betokened Elvis's punk integrity--his commitment to collective creation, his rejection of the International Pop Music Community's expedient playing around. And the last time they were fully equal to his music was on This Year's Model in 1978. So finally he ditches them for T-Bone Burnett and a bunch of studio pros Steve Stills himself could get behind, one set anchored by Elvis I-approved L.A. rockabillies James Burton and Ron Tutt, the other by New Orleans-gone-L.A. drummer Earl Palmer and Modern Jazz-gone-L.A. bassist Ray Brown. And they all collaborate with their paymaster on that incommensurable token of collective creation, a groove. The wordplay is still too private, but the music has opened up: the careworn relaxation of Elvis's live vocals fits the uncompromised careerism of this groove as simply as 1978's raging tension did the angry young speed-rock of This Year's Model. Good show. A-