Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Elvis Costello: Mighty Like a Rose [Warner Bros., 1991]
Too often his pessimism sounds like not just bitterness but spite. He didn't take over the world, and is he mad--not only can't he make the personal political, he can't even make it popular. The Mitchell Froom-produced arrangements here are stuck between Tom Waits as Kurt Weill and Tom Waits as Jackson Browne--Randy Newman is beyond them. So as performed, the good songs are overblown tragedies, the bad ones overblown trifles. The best is the simplest because it's the simplest--"Playboy to a Man," love to hear John Hiatt rockabilly it. The most tragic is the chiliastic "Other Side of Summer," recommended to punk bands in the market for a song with a lot of words in it. And I admit "Invasion Hit Parade" almost makes the spiteful political. Its theory of life is that fascism has a great deal in common with songs you don't like on the radio. C+