Elvis Costello & The Sugarcanes Hold You Hostage

by Randy Lewis SOURCE LA Times / Hulu

As a singer, songwriter and observer of human foibles, Elvis Costello is little short of dazzling on his latest outing.

It certifies him as both the modern-day Cole Porter for the effortless way he marries sophisticated lyrics with elegant music, and contemporary counterpart to Brecht-Weill for his unrelenting skill at creating and inhabiting unforgettable characters and their dark situations on the album National Ransom.

But anyone who loves the English language should marvel at his poking into its nooks and crannies with phrases such as “ravening maw,” “colliery town,” “fumbled skein,” and “vile vaudevillians.” In Costello’s infinitely gifted hands, pop music circa 2010 is anything but “only rock ’n’ roll.”