If there’s one thing I hate, and obviously there’s more than one or I wouldn’t be doing this, it’s Musical Chameleons. You know the type: those musicians who either ride the bucking bronco of the sonic zeitgeist, or defy the sheep-like trends of the herd and refuse to be tied down to a single ‘genre’ or ‘style’. Invariably these dabblers suck at everything they do, and most of their records sound the same anyway. Take, for instance, David Bowie: every David Bowie album may be a dazzling stylistic U-Turn, but they’ve still got fucking David Bowie camping it up all over them, haven’t they? Similarly, no matter how many genres Elvis Costello ‘appropriated’, his records all seemed to feature an unpleasant newt-voiced man trying to be clever. Funny, that. (In fact, the only good thing about Musical Chameleons is that they aren’t, in fact, in cod-epic drizzle-rockers The Chameleons.)

Shall we look further? Oh, go on then:


My Aim Is True: Starts career in poor fashion by working with Huey Lewis’ backing band. Songs either ‘political’ and incomprehensible and ‘romantic’ and maudlin. Genre Pastiched: Pub rock, basically.
This Year’s Model: Attractions look tough only compared to previous backing mob. Costello dislikes women, but very cleverly. GP: New wave.
Armed Forces: Costello breaks through the ‘pun barrier’ – fully 50% of all words now ambiguously polymeaningful and darkly witty. He hides his angry political pill inside sugarcoating of Abba-pastiche pop. 99.9993% of album buyers midly enjoy sugarcoating, discard pill. GP: pop.
Get Happy!: 20 tracks which feel like 40. Lyrics by now complete gibberish i.e. “King Horse”. GP: Soul, which is to say Steve Nieve plays more Hammond than is usual or neccessary.
Trust: Porridgey album memorable for nothing save involvement of Squeeze, which tells you everything you need to know. Several unattractive men slap each other on the back about how ‘crafted’ their songs are. GP: I fear a ‘jazzy’ mood is intended at times.
Imperial Bedroom: Monstrously, staggeringly overproduced. If the Emperor Nero had put out an album it wouldn’t sound this decadent and sickly. Costello makes genres fight one another in a sick death arena, listeners are the losers. GP: Beatles.
Almost Blue: It’s meant to be bad, so it doesn’t count. GP: country.
Punch The Clock: Apt name for time-serving stab at chart action. Meanwhile, voters listen hard to Costello’s savage political tracts and return Thatcher with impossibly vast majority. GP: whatever was in the top 40.
Goodbye Cruel World: If only. As above, but blander. GP: Muzak.
King Of America: Final surrender of crowd-pleasing EC to critic-pleasing EC with impeccably boring ‘acoustic’ album. Many ballads. Many sessionmen. GP: dadrock.
Blood And Chocolate: First of several ‘returns to form’. Ham-fisted Attractions meet hissy fit Costello. Long, aggressive songs gruelling to anyone at all well-adjusted. GP: garage rock.
Spike: Costello goes mad, tries to play every kind of music at once, lyrics contravene EU impenetrability bylaws. Worst record ever. GP: where do I start?
Mighty Like An Arse: Beard mocked worldwide, and rightly. Album also mocked as Spike Lite, which is in fact a big improvement. Still shit, though. Songs written by Macca indistinguishable from surrounding gruel. Song co-written with wife easily distinguishable as it sounds like the Cranberries on Mogadon. GP: Beach Boys, among other things.
The Juliet Letters: Epistolary classical music concept album recorded with Brodsky Quartet. Someone take his money away. GP: classical.
Brutal Youth: ‘Return to form’ again as the likes of Mitchell Froom are sent thankfully packing. Unfortunately old warhorses the Attractions are called back in their place: all involved poke listlessly at former glories. GP: Elvis Costello, circa 1978.
Kodak Variety: Covers album which sold 0 copies. GP: crooning.
All This Useless Beauty: Collection of songs EC wrote for other people, and which they sang in order to get rid of him. Now sung by Costello himself, oh goody. GP: compilation album.
Painted From Memory: Costello teams up with fellow superannuated craftsman to record stupefying album of rococo smugness. Record festooned with ‘niiiiice’ production touches which would make Steely Dan blush. Useless vanity project. GP: lounge.