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Elvis and Other Attractions

If any other artist were pulling this reunion stunt, we'd call it bankrupt revivalism, or gross opportunism, and dismiss it with a sneer. Much like we'll soon be doing with the bankrupt revivalist reunion opportunism of the Eagles' unwelcome reformation. But this isn't any other artist we're talking about. It's Elvis Costello, whose legacy has not grown tired in perpetual classic-rock syndication, whose reunion with one-time Attractions Pete Thomas, Bruce Thomas and Steve Nieve, plus Costello producer Nick Lowe, was inspired by convenience, not commercial bankruptcy, and who's a formidable practitioner of the cynical sneer in his own right. Ergo, dismissal takes a back seat to celebration.

Costello, of course, doesn't have to do this. His recent work with the Brodsky Quartet on The Juliet Letters shows that his audience will follow him anywhere, even into the rarefied air of chamber music. He has paired up with guitarist Marc Ribot on Rob Wasserman's Trios album and penned an entire LP's worth of tunes for the debut of ex-Transvision Vamp Wendy James alongside putting out his own solo albums.

But by these ears, Costello is listened to most fondly as the angry young lad in Buddy Holly's glasses and Johnny Rotten's smirk who appears on early masterpieces like Get Happy and Trust from his Columbia catalog, being re-issued by Rykodisc as we speak. So it's a happy event to see Costello return -- if only briefly -- to partnership with his old mates for a new tour, and a new album that touches all the old buttons without a hint of staleness.

It's titled Brutal Youth (Warner Brothers), and amongst the 15 gem-cut tunes is one called "London's Brilliant Parade," wherein Costello returns to his old stomping grounds in a dream, singing "Just look at me, I'm having the time of my life." And then, because he's Elvis Costello, he tacks on: "Or something quite like it." From the sound of things, it's close enough.

-- Brad Tyer

Elvis Costello and the Attractions perform at 8 p.m. Sunday, May 22 at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. $37.50, $27.50 and $12.50. Call

29-3700 for info.

Crit Picks:
Jimmie Vaughan -- The late Stevie Ray's older brother is the ax-slinger most insiders will tell you is the better of the two -- something about tastefulness and restraint -- but it's precisely those qualities that are so disappointing on the ex-Fabulous Thunderbird's maiden solo disk. Strange Pleasure (Epic) is, in some ways, Vaughan's therapy and emergence from the tragedy of the younger brother's death

-- "Six Strings Down" is pure gone-to-blues-heaven eulogy -- but lighthearted is the mood that prevails, from the leadoff cut "Boom-Bapa-Boom" to "Hey-Yeah" and the instrumental "Tilt a Whirl." Expect some fine picking, and plenty of taste and restraint, but don't expect much from Vaughan's singing voice, cuz he doesn't have one. Friday, May 20 at the Tower, with Carolyn Wonderland.

Domestic Science Club -- Sara Hickman, Patty Lege and Robin Macy pooled their considerable resources for an eponymous EP earlier this year, and though "quirky" is a rightly out-of-favor word for describing the work of female artists, quirky it is. Jazzy chordings, sweet harmonies and goodhearted lyrics that lean toward goofy age into the realm of cutesy after repeated listenings, but if this is your first time, prepare to be buoyed. Friday, May 20 at McGonigel's Mucky Duck.

King Missile -- The new King Missile (Atlantic) must be the band's fourth or fifth album, but by its introductory title we're led to believe it's a departure, an awakening, a rebirth. Yeah yeah, Genesis tried that trick once, too. The "new" here is really the latest installment in a multi-disk attempt to convince the album-buying public that King Missile is a real band, not just some musicians playing behind John S. Hall's manic-comic monologues. Okay already, so it's a band. Bands are dime-a-dozen. All I really want to hear is Hall's rant, and it's here, whether the record company likes it or not. Saturday, May 21 at Goat's Head Soup.

Billy Joe Shaver -- Saturday, May 21 at the Satellite Lounge, with Houston's Rounders. See Picks this issue.

Rodney Crowell -- Let the Picture Paint Itself is Crowell's new one on a new label (MCA), and if it's got the cheesiest cover art in the history of Nashville -- no mean feat, that -- it also marks Crowell's toughest music since Diamonds and Dirt. What that means to the uninitiated is raw country, though here, as ever, it's Crowell's bent for Dylanishly intelligent lyrics that separates him from the hat pack. Crowell's one hell of a personable performer, too. Sunday, May 22 at Rockefeller's.

Surgery -- The Shimmer debut on Atlantic follows scads of indie vinyl and lives up to a reputation for blues rock, punk-style. Drummer John Leamy defines the band's mission as "making stupid music for smart people," which begs the question of whether there isn't already quite enough stupid music to go around, but the Surgery sound -- something like what the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion might make if a producer went back and filled in all the holes -- argues for a driving live show. Monday, May 23 at Goat's Head Soup.

 
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