Elvis Costello – Goodbye Cruel World (1984): Review


Produced by Clive Langer & Alan Winstanley
Label – F-Beat/Columbia

Generally regarded by most in the rock press, and even Costello himself, as his poorest musical performance, and his weakest album. Costello. who at the time was troubled by divorce proceedings would say that he was a “pain in the arse” during the recording sessions. “I just kept changing things as I was never satisfied” was one comment that would come from Costello when recalling the making of the album. So fractious was the recording process and ensuing disagreements, Costello effectively fired “The Attractions” for his tour the following year.


On listening to the album now, one realises that although not a truly bad album, there are no classic Costello songs, and none of the sharp, challenging witticisms that one could find on previous releases. In fact, in terms of production and feel, this album is trying to sound like a pop album without pop tunes. Prime example is the opening track “The Only Flame In Town”, which finds Daryl Hall and Elvis awkwardly trying to grapple with harmony vocals. Best song on the album is Costello’s stark rework of the classic R&B song “I Wanna Be Loved”.

Costello’s liner notes to the 1995 reissue on Rykodisc open with the statement, “Congratulations! You just bought the worst album of my career.” Declan, it really isn’t that bad.


Track Listing
1.”The Only Flame in Town” – 4:01
2.”Home Truth” – 3:12
3.”Room with No Number” – 4:13
4.”Inch By Inch” – 2:29
5.”Worthless Thing” – 3:04
6.”Love Field” – 3:26
7.”I Wanna Be Loved” – 4:47
8.”The Comedians” – 2:36
9.”Joe Porterhouse” – 3:29
10.”Sour Milk-Cow Blues” – 2:50
11.”The Great Unknown” – 3:00
12.”The Deportees Club” – 2:54
13.”Peace in Our Time” – 4:06

7 responses to “Elvis Costello – Goodbye Cruel World (1984): Review


    • It’s not great I agree in comparison to other Costello recordings, but I still don’t think it’s a bad record. Just not up to his standards unfortunately.

  2. I’ve always thought “I Wanna Be Loved” had potential to be a cult classic, had it not been draped in criminally stereotypical 80’s synths, and had the production qualities say of the “Trust” album for example.

    Totally agree about the harmonies with Darryl Hall, would’ve been much better had he done them himself. Have you heard the earlier cut on the second disc of the Ryko bonus reissue? Lacks that harmony vocal, but the earlier direction this song took was very good. Still really love “The Only Flame in Town”, as any song with a strong subject matter and a good tune can cut through any personal dissapointment with production!

  3. I agree Josh. There is potentially some strong songs, and you’re right the Ryko version of that song is better than the actual album cut. I believe his best material was always when he was working with The Attractions, not against them or without them.

  4. I hadn’t played this for years and thought I would give it a spin. I skipped the first track and was really impressed. Some of that is nostalgia, 1984/5 was a great time for me. There are a lot of really good songs, and they are much better than the albums he did in the late 80’s-,although maybe I should play them again. The video for I wanna be loved, shot in a photo booth in flinders st station Melbourne ( Australia)

    • Yeah, you’re right Steven, there are some good songs on the album, but I think in terms of his previous output, even Elvis was disappointed with the result.

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