Rock ‘n’ roll’s unforgiving codes work in mysterious and sometimes shocking ways. Consider the disdain with which Elvis Costello is widely held outside of the too-respectful mainstream rock press. That disdain has to do with the fact that over the past five years he’s firmly established himself as the first punk geezer–a symptom not of age but of attitude. The once neurotic, spitting-mad symbol of emotional angst is now just conventionally prickly, hanging out with the likes of Paul McCartney and Jerry Garcia and getting mad when people suggest he’s just buddying up to the Hall of Fame crowd. This would matter less if he’d released anything of musical worth in the last seven years or so. His latest, Brutal Youth, has a tune or two (“Kinder Murder,” “You Tripped at Every Step”) and undoubtedly a turn of phrase or two as well, buried somewhere in its fuzzily recorded vocals. But a less compelling album by a major artist hasn’t come along since, well, The Juliet Letters. Rykodisc’s ongoing CD reissues of his original Columbia catalog–lovingly remastered and annotated, with oodles of additional tracks added–make the dichotomy between the morning and the twilight of his career all the more sharp. Costello’s records sell like coldcakes; he makes his nut on the tour circuit, theaters in winter, sheds in summer. This year he’s on the reunion bandwagon, back with the Attractions. Saturday, 7:30 PM, World Music Theatre, I-80 and Harlem, Tinley Park; 559-1212 or 708-614-1616.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Amelia Stein.