Trust (Elvis Costello album)

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Studio album by
Released23 January 1981
RecordedOctober–November 1980
GenreNew wave
LabelF-Beat (UK)
Columbia (US)
Demon/Rykodisc (29 April 1994 reissue)
Rhino (9 September 2003 reissue)
Hip-O (1 May 2007 reissue)
ProducerNick Lowe, Roger Bechirian
Elvis Costello and the Attractions chronology
Ten Bloody Marys & Ten How's Your Fathers
Almost Blue
Singles from Trust
  1. "Clubland"
    Released: 12 December 1980
  2. "From a Whisper to a Scream"
    Released: 27 February 1981
  3. "Watch Your Step"
    Released: April 1981 (US)

Trust (1981) is an album by Elvis Costello and the Attractions. It is Costello's fifth album, and fourth with the Attractions. It was also his fifth consecutive album produced by Nick Lowe, who handled production on all songs except "Big Sister's Clothes" (which the liner notes make clear by stating that Lowe was "not to blame" for it).


Costello's original intent with Trust was to cross the melody of Armed Forces with the rhythm of Get Happy!! The songs on the album dealt with a general sense of disenchantment he felt during the time, with the recent election of the Conservative government as well as tensions within his first marriage, which gave them an overall cynical tone.[1] As a result, the general lyrical content of the songs describe a world that is essentially the opposite of what the album title implies. Earlier working titles were "Cats and Dogs" and "More Songs About Fucking and Fighting".

The initial recording sessions were held at DJM Studios in London, but they were displeased with the results. It did not help that the bandmates were almost constantly under the influence of mood-altering drugs.[1] As Costello wrote in the liner notes of the Rhino reissue:

This was easily the most drug-influenced record of my career ... It was completed close to a self-induced nervous collapse on a diet of rough 'scrumpy' cider, gin and tonic, various powders ... and, in the final hours, Seconal and Johnnie Walker Black Label.[1]

Recording resumed at Eden Studios, where previous albums had been done. Although the band was no more sober, the resulting tracks were more to Costello's liking. Despite having previously expressed a desire to distance himself from the pop music mainstream, Costello revealed that a number of songs on the album were influenced by other contemporary artists. Specifically, "Clubland" incorporated the guitar style of the Police, "You'll Never Be a Man" borrowed from the Pretenders, "White Knuckles" was modelled on XTC records, and "Fish 'n' Chip Paper" was an homage to Squeeze. Lastly, "Big Sister's Clothes" had a bass line based on work by the Clash.[1]

According to AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Trust was conceived as "a stylistic tour de force", with examples of diverse styles on the record being the Bo Diddley beat on "Lovers' Walk", the jazz elements to "Clubland", the soul pop of "Watch Your Step", the "rockabilly redux" of "Luxembourg", the Tin Pan Alley-style pop of "Shot with His Own Gun", the country-styled "Different Finger" and the "more complex arrangements and musicianship" that accompany "White Knuckles" and "New Lace Sleeves".[2]

Commercially, none of the singles on Trust entered the British top 40, the first time this had happened since My Aim Is True, his debut album. "Clubland" was a minor chart hit, reaching 60 in the UK.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[2]
Blender5/5 stars[3]
Chicago Tribune3/4 stars[4]
Entertainment WeeklyA[5]
Mojo4/5 stars[6]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[7]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[8]
Uncut5/5 stars[10]
The Village VoiceA[11]

Contemporary reviews for Trust were positive. In a review for Rolling Stone, Ken Tucker said that Costello's "words and music make exhilarating connections with pop past and pop future".[7] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice stated that the album "is rock and roll as eloquent, hard-hitting pop, and Elvis has turned into such a soul man that I no longer wish he'd change his name to George and go country."[11] Trust was ranked the seventh best album of 1981 by NME.[12] In The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics' poll of the year's best albums, Trust finished third.[13]

Retrospectively, Trust has received acclaim from music critics, and has been cited as one of Costello's best, as well as most underrated, works. In 2000, it was voted number 708 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[14] AllMusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote that Trust is "arguably" Costello and the Attractions' "most impressive album, one that demonstrates all sides of Costello's songwriting and performing personality without succumbing to pretentiousness."[2] In The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), Rob Sheffield commented that the album "still marks Elvis's summit as a singer, songwriter, and miserable-Irish-bastard pin-up boy."[8] In a later piece commemorating the 30th anniversary of its release, Sheffield named Trust Costello's best album and commented that "it's never been one of his most famous albums, but it's his funniest, his wisest, and his most rocking."[15] In 2002, Costello described Trust as "a record that falls between the cracks a little bit" and noted that he felt "it has one of the greatest Attractions performances, 'New Lace Sleeves.'"[15]

In popular culture[edit]

The album is mentioned in Bret Easton Ellis' novel Less Than Zero, which also takes its name from one of Costello's songs.[16]

LP track listing[edit]

All songs written by Elvis Costello except as indicated.

Side one
2."Lover's Walk"2:17
3."You'll Never Be a Man"2:56
4."Pretty Words"3:11
5."Strict Time"2:40
7."Watch Your Step"2:57
Side two
1."New Lace Sleeves"3:45
2."From a Whisper to a Scream"2:54
3."Different Finger"1:58
4."White Knuckles"3:47
5."Shot With His Own Gun"3:30
6."Fish 'n' Chip Paper"2:55
7."Big Sister's Clothes"2:11

CD reissue bonus tracks (1994 Rykodisc)[edit]

  1. "Black Sails in the Sunset" [Alternate Mix] – 2:56
  2. "Big Sister" – 2:11
  3. "Sad About Girls" (Steve Nieve as "Norman Brain", Fay Hart) – 2:48
  4. "Twenty-Five to Twelve" – 3:52
  5. "Love for Sale" (Cole Porter) – 3:02
  6. "Weeper's Dream" – 1:05
  7. "Gloomy Sunday" (Sam M. Lewis, Rezső Seress) – 3:13
  8. "Boy with a Problem" (solo demo version) (Costello, Chris Difford) – 2:31
  9. "Seconds of Pleasure" (Version 1 of 'Invisible Man') – 3:18
  • "Black Sails in the Sunset" is presented here in a previously unreleased alternate mix that runs 13 seconds shorter and fades out earlier than the original b-side version.[17]

Bonus disc (2003 Rhino)[edit]


  1. "Black Sails in the Sunset" – 3:09
  2. "Big Sister" – 2:17
  3. "Twenty-Five to Twelve" – 4:05
  4. "Sad About Girls" (Brain, Hart) – 2:49
  5. "From a Whisper to a Scream" (Alternate version) – 3:27
  6. "Watch Your Step" (Alternate version) – 2:47
  7. "Clubland" (Alternate take) – 4:03
  8. "You'll Never be a Man" (Alternate take) – 3:10
  9. "Slow Down" (Larry Williams) – 2:24
  10. "Big Sister" (Alternate version) – 5:07
  11. "Black Sails in the Sunset" (Alternate version) – 3:07
  12. "Hoover Factory" (Alternate version) – 1:47
  13. "Love for Sale" (Porter) – 3:04
  14. "Boy with a Problem" (Single version) (Costello, Difford) – 2:33
  15. "Weeper's Dream" – 1:07
  16. "Gloomy Sunday" (Lewis, Seress) – 3:15
  17. "The Long Honeymoon" (Instrumental piano demo) – 1:41

The Rykodisc version has the original tracks and bonus tracks on one CD. The Rhino version has two CDs with the original tracks on the first CD.


  • Elvis Costello – vocals, guitars, all instruments on "Big Sister's Clothes"
The Attractions
Additional personnel
  • Neill King - production assistance
  • Greg Allen - art direction, design
  • Keith Morris, Paul Cox - photography



Year Chart Position
1981 Billboard Pop Albums 28
Year Song Chart Position
1981 "From a Whisper to a Scream" Billboard Mainstream Rock 46


  1. ^ a b c d Trust (Inset). Elvis Costello and the Attractions. USA: Rhino Entertainment. 2003. R2 73909.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  2. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Trust – Elvis Costello & the Attractions / Elvis Costello". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 16 November 2015. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  3. ^ Harrison, Andrew. "Elvis Costello: (various reissues)". Blender. Archived from the original on 24 October 2004. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
  4. ^ Kot, Greg (2 June 1991). "The Sounds Of Elvis, From San Francisco And Beyond". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 28 October 2020. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  5. ^ White, Armond (10 May 1991). "Elvis Costello's albums". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 21 October 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  6. ^ Doyle, Tom (November 2018). "Band Substance". Mojo. No. 300. p. 59.
  7. ^ a b Tucker, Ken (2 April 1981). "Trust". Rolling Stone. No. 340. Archived from the original on 21 April 2008. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  8. ^ a b Sheffield, Rob (2004). "Elvis Costello". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). London: Fireside Books. pp. 193–95. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  9. ^ Collis, Clark (June 1994). "Elvis Costello and the Attractions: Get Happy / Trust". Select. No. 49. p. 92.
  10. ^ Wilde, Jon (October 2003). "High fidelity". Uncut. No. 77. pp. 132–33.
  11. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (2 March 1981). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on 5 November 2011. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  12. ^ "1981 Best Albums And Tracks Of The Year". NME. 10 October 2016. Archived from the original on 4 November 2016. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  13. ^ "The 1981 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. 1 February 1982. Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  14. ^ Larkin, Colin (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 227. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  15. ^ a b Sheffield, Rob (25 January 2011). "Elvis Costello's Best (and Most Curiously Underrated) Album Turns 30". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 21 September 2020. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  16. ^ Easton Ellis, Brett (1985). Less Than Zero. New York: Picador. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-330-53932-6.
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 February 2019. Retrieved 1 February 2019.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 February 2019. Retrieved 1 February 2019.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)