CD Review: Elvis Costello

National Ransom (Hear/Concord)

Like most recent Elvis Costello albums, National Ransom is stuffed with a little bit of everything from his past: witty wordplay, some bitching and moaning, familiar bandmates, producer T Bone Burnett, and a mix of pop, rock, gospel, R&B, and country sounds. So it doesn't distinguish itself a whole lot from, say, The Delivery Man or last year's Secret, Profane & Sugarcane. There are occasional moments of genuine flash on the hour-long CD, but you have to wade through some soggy detours to get to them. It starts with the part-twangy, part-distorted-guitar feedback of the title track, then quickly sinks into a messy mash of unfinished ideas and blah throwbacks. National Ransom hops around more erratically than any of Costello's other records, and the songs that sound like something your great-grandparents may have heard on their refrigerator-sized radio are particularly annoying. But "Five Small Words" and "Dr. Watson, I Presume" are his best songs in years. Just be ready to dig your way to them. — Michael Gallucci

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