Mighty Like a Rose

Elvis Costello

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Mighty Like a Rose Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

If Spike seemed frustratingly incoherent, it's nothing compared to Mighty Like a Rose, a deliberately dense, difficult record that is easily the most impenetrable that Elvis Costello ever cut. With producers Mitchell Froom and Kevin Killen, Costello made a record with no easy entrances, even if the sparkling Beach Boys-esque "The Other Side of Summer" and the lovely "So Like Candy" would have been accessible with different production. And, certainly, production is the most notable thing about this record. Filled with clattering production, spongy bass, cardboard guitars, studio white noise, and layers upon layers of tracks, there's so much going on that it's hard to get to the core of the songs. Not that Costello makes it any easier for the listener, either, since only a few songs (the aforementioned pair, plus "All Grown Up" and "Playboy to a Man") don't seem self-satisfied in their own construction. And his performances are nearly as affected as the songs, as he over-sings (albeit for effect) and contributes to the muddy wall of sound. Yes, this is "interesting," but it takes many plays before you realize all those "interesting" effects lead nowhere -- only to the strangest record Costello ever cut (and that's not a compliment, unfortunately).

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