Elvis Costello & The Imposters
His Aim Is Still True!
Elvis Costello is the only act I’ve ever queued TWICE for his albums on the day of release (This Year’s Model & King of America); and for a long time afterwards I bought each and every album he released; until The Delivery Man …..well, like the three that preceded it I don’t think I’ve listened to it a third time in 15 years.
So, while obviously flattered to be asked to review his latest, and 30th studio album, I was very nervous last Sunday playing it for the first time.
What if I really didn’t like it?
But, a combination of me not playing his albums for a decade and possibly now having more refined tastes……… there was no need to panic; the Kid is in fine fettle and right back in the game!
The first thing you hear Under Lime and it’s as sharp and melodic as anything Costello recorded in the 80’s (his peak period btw) yet while the arrangement sounds a bit jazzy and not unlike his songs with Burt Bacharach the lyrics are brand new, shiny and even attention grabbing.
Now I’m settled into it. LOOK NOW is real ‘Grown Up Music’; no, not AOR because very little here ‘rocks’ this is 100% quality singer-songwriter material aimed at Grown Ups, that takes chances unlike any of his peers would ever dare take…… try the magnificent Burnt Sugar is More Bitter (written with Carol King no less!) and Dishonour The Stars and then point me to someone other than EC who could write such a song and arrange it in this manner and yet it’s still ‘commercial’ and listenable over and over again.
There’s always been something of a Poet in the way Elvis chooses his words and constructs his songs making the listener know exactly what he means in Mr & Mrs Hush or the intense Stripping Paper even if they aren’t to be taken literally.
As is my won’t I’ve played this five times before reading the Press Release and only then did I realise that the two brooding ballads Don’t Look Now and Photographs Don’t Lie are both co-write with Burt Bacharach; whose (with hindsight) ghost is all over them.
To some greater or lesser degree he’s taken a big step backwards to jump forwards with the bittersweet Suspect My Tears and He’s Given Me Things, with both not sounding particularly like anything else he’s recorded but takes you back to a time when his song writing shone like a star in the sky.
While far from being my ‘Favourite Song’ here; I admire the way he casually drops in the left of centre arrangement of Why Won’t Heaven Help Me without a care in the world.
Finding my actual ‘Favourite Song’ was actually quite easy this time; as the I Let The Sun Go Down punched me straight in the heart the first time I heard it. String arrangements, luscious harmonies and Elvis Costello at his sharpest, cleverest and indeed witty even all rolled up in a quasi-political observation that will catch many a radio producer out!
If we forget his Angry Young Man phase in the late 70’s; Elvis Costello was a Master craftsman of his art between Trust and Spike; constantly reinventing himself yet always letting that one and only voice take us on musical journeys we’d never ever contemplated taking with anyone else; but ended up wondering why no one else had ever thought of that direction before.
Released 12th October 2018