Elvis Costello / Elvis Costello & the Attractions

Goodbye Cruel World

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During the making of Goodbye Cruel World, Elvis Costello was undergoing a multitude of personal problems, including a divorce, that resulted in a number of poor production decisions and ill-conceived, unformed songs. Like Punch the Clock, Goodbye Cruel World was produced by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, the top British hitmakers of the '80s. Consequently, most of the record suffers from a stiff, synthesized production that instantly dates the record. In some cases -- like the duet with Daryl Hall, "The Only Flame in Town," and the cover of the lost Hi R&B gem "I Wanna Be Loved" -- the songs benefit from the shiny, streamlined production but it obscures the merits of the finest songs on the album. "Room with No Number," "The Comedians," "Sour Milk-Cow Blues," and "Peace in Our Time" all cry out for a simple, stripped-down presentation, but they're weighted down with stylized sounds and trendy synthesizers; however, once the sound of the album settles in, the strength of these songs is apparent. The remainder of Goodbye Cruel World isn't as memorable, primarily because Costello's uninspired vocals and the Attractions' muted performances fail to make the weaker songs musically compelling.

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