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At twenty, opacity was its own reward. Steeped in Eliot and Elvis Costello, impervious to hints about my true sexuality, I valued dense music and lyrics that refused to yield to interpretation. The Elvis Costello of Spike and Mighty Like a Rose was a good mascot. My college station — not to mention my Top 40’s “post-modern music show” — played the hell out of “Deep Dark Truthful Mirror,” “Veronica,” and “So Like Candy.” The two-basses-and-four-percussion-loop that characterized EC’s approach to record making had resonance to this Beatles fan.

Long draughts of the Rykodisck reissues of his classic albums removed the opacity goggles; while he still resorted to putdowns when eloquence failed him the rhythm section was so lithe and Steve Nieve’s keyboards so colorful that I thought he could do anything. Through Trust, that is (no Ryko tape — a shitty Columbia press that got serious car rotation). The scary number of B-sides, Frida rejects, and outtakes on the second half of the Imperial Boredom reissue were a better album than their host. As for the nineties, a Spotify playlist including the best of The Juliet Letters (“I Almost Had a Weakness”), Brutal Youth (“Sulky Girl,” “13 Steps Lead Down,” “London’s Brilliant Parade”), and All This Useless Beauty (“Little Atoms,” “You Bowed Down”) is easy. Toss in stuff from the Bacharach collab and When I Was Cruel and you’re ready to go, but if a friend recommends anything after 2004’s North I’d wonder whether he’s gotten toxic levels of NPR exposure.

1. No Action
2. I Want You
3. New Lace Sleeves
4. New Amsterdam
5. Indoor Fireworks
6. This Year’s Girl
7. I’ll Wear It Proudly
8. Motel Matches
9. The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes
10. Oliver’s Army
11. Hoover Factory
12. I Hope You’re Happy Now
13. Clubland
14. Accidents Will Happen
15. Big Sister’s Clothes
16. America Without Tears
17. King Horse
18. Home is Anywhere You Hang Your Head
19. Couldn’t Call It Unexpected #4
20. Watch Your Step
21. Peace in Our Time
22. Beyond Belief
23. Welcome to the Working Week
24. Possession
25. Watching the Detectives
26. I Still Have That Other Girl
27. Talking in the Dark
28. It’s Time
29. Everyday I Write the Book
30. Pump It Up
31. Luxembourg
32. Uncomplicated
33. Veronica
34. White Knuckles
35. Pidgin English