You don’t need to look too far to find Elvis Costello’s ninth album’s biggest hater; Costello himself began the 1984 album Goodbye Cruel World’s 1995 Rykodisc reissue with the welcoming line, “Congratulations! You just bought the worst album of my career.”
He even repeated this line in its 2004 Rhino reissue, albeit reframed in the context of an anecdote about being asked to sign the album by an actor on the set of the 1999 movie 200 Cigarettes.
Thing is, these reissues made clear Goodbye Cruel World was not the disaster its creator figures it to be. The second disc of the Rhino reissue runs 26 tracks, presenting almost all of the original album’s 13 songs in demo form. Most of Goodbye Cruel World was slathered with the Yamaha DX7 keyboard, which, Costello wrote, “May as well date-stamp the album to an exact week in 1984,” which is to say it was doomed to not age well. Heard stripped of all that in the demos, the underlying quality of the songs themselves is evident; Costello’s considerable songwriting gifts had not left him.
A clear highlight is “The Comedians,” which was deep enough to be quoted by Alan Moore in his seminal graphic novel Watchmen. On the album proper, Costello gets a fun assist from Daryl Hall on “The Only Flame in Town.”