Friday, 12 October 2018

Elvis Costello - Look Now (2018)

Released October 2018

For some reason, I was expecting a album of laid-back, “croony” Burt Bacharach-style material on this album. (Bacharach indeed collaborated on some of the songs). Not so, some of it is there, because that has been what has floated Costello’s boat for the last twenty years or so, but a lot of it is refreshing powerful, punchy and at many times Attractions-esque. Not surprising, as keyboardist Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas are in attendance. The sound quality is one of the best I have heard on a Costello album too.


1. Under Lime
2. Don't Look Now
3. Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter
4. Stripping Paper
5. Unwanted Number
6. I Let The Sun Go Down
7. Mr & Mrs Hush
8. Photographs Can Lie
9. Dishonor The Stars
10. Suspect My Tears
11. Why Won't Heaven Help Me?
12. He's Given Me Things

“Under Lime” is a delicious mixture of an upbeat rocky number featuring some typical Costello balladry with a bit of Beatles-style brass thrown in for good measure at one point. The bass line is beautiful on this and Costello’s voice sounds just like it did many years ago. The track is hindered just a little by some unnecessary embellishments - some superfluous “ba-ba-ba” vocals, for example. That is a minor thing, though, overall, it is a quite innovative and impressive number. Some Attractions-style piano comes in near the end too. “Don’t Look Now” is, I believe, a leftover from a shelved musical featuring Bacharach material. It has that feel about it, with Costello’s best crooning, deep vocal, but it is enhanced by a powerful drum sound. The same power continues on the jaunty but bassy rockishness of the interestingly-titled “Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter” (co-written with Carole King, apparently). I love this one. Energetic and infectious. It has some great brass on it too.

“Stripping Paper” is what may at one time have been recorded as a stark piano and vocal ballad, but as with all the material so far, it is given a different feel by Pete Thomas’s muscular drums. Nieve’s piano on this is beautiful. “Unwanted Number” is a thumping, but bluesy melodic Attractions-style offering, dated from 1996, I read.

Some more George Martin brass (French horn?) crops up on the evocative and pretty impressive “I Let The Sun Go Down”. Costello’s voice is so good on this one, which is one of his best songs for many a year. Particularly sad when one thinks of the recent passing of engineer Geoff Emerick, who worked with The Beatles for so long and, of course, Costello on “Imperial Bedroom”. His influence would seem to be all over this.

“Mr. & Mrs. Hush” is like something from 2004’s “The Delivery Man” but with added brass accoutrements. Again, Costello sounds energetic, enthusiastic and effervescent, something that is coming across so much on this album. “Photographs Can Lie” is initially a more typical Costello piano and vocal number, like “Almost Blue”, then its get some infectious bass and percussion which makes it even better. I am really enjoying this. I’m not sure “Dishonor The Stars” was  one of the tracks from the aborted musical, but it has that story-telling, narrative feel about it. It is not one of my favourite melodies from the album, but it is buoyed by its excellent quality backing.

“Suspect My Tears” is a beautiful, deep ballad with big, dramatic stage-style orchestration and a bit of a poppy melody to it.  There is a real Bacharach air to this. I am not sure yet who wrote the individual songs and whether this is one of the collaborations with Bacharach. If not, Costello certainly wrote it in that style. (It's not - "Don't Look Now", "Photographs Can Lie" and "He's Given Me Things" are the Bacharach collaborations). “Why Won’t Heaven Help Me?” has echoes of “The Long Honeymoon” from “Imperial Bedroom” in places. “He’s Given Me Things” is a tender, low-key ballad on which to end this highly impressive album.

Personally, I feel this album will be a real grower that will justify numerous plays over the years, just like “Imperial Bedroom”, the Costello album that this reminds me of the most, and I can’t say better than that.


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