ELVIS COSTELLO

Fo­cus­ing on failed re­la­tion­ships and re­gret, Costello’s eye and melodic gift are as sharp as ever.

Q (UK) - - Contents -

De­clan MacManus puts re­cent health woes be­hind him with just the kind of song­writ­ing tour-de-force you’d ex­pect.

ELVIS COSTELLO & THE IMPOSTERS LOOK NOW CON­CORD, OUT 12 OC­TO­BER

A woman is wor­ried that her mar­riage is break­ing down. An al­co­holic en­ter­tainer on a TV show has an em­bar­rass­ing back­stage fum­ble with a girl on the pro­duc­tion team. Des­per­ate housewives. Guilt-rid­den af­fairs. The pro­fun­dity of ev­ery­day dra­mas. Elvis Costello’s new al­bum calls to mind the EastEn­ders pro­ducer who said, “If Shake­speare were alive to­day, he’d be writ­ing soap op­eras.” Costello’s first re­lease since a hip-hop col­lab­o­ra­tion with The Roots in 2013 (and since hav­ing surgery to re­move an “ag­gres­sive can­cer­ous ma­lig­nancy” ear­lier this year), Look Now is a 12- song set that in­cludes co-writes with Burt Bacharach and Ca­role King. This is high-pedi­gree pop-soul in the style of Costello’s 1982 song Tears Be­fore Bed­time. It’s a good sign when his tal­is­manic key­boardist Steve Nieve fea­tures promi­nently, and he cer­tainly does here. Costello’s lyrics are sub­tle, pen­e­trat­ing and of­ten writ­ten from a woman’s per­spec­tive. His voice has the husk­i­ness of a year-old, but his words mine the rich psy­cho-emo­tional soil he’s been glee­fully drilling into since his 20s. If we recog­nise the cou­ples in Strip­ping Pa­per and Burnt Sugar Is So Bit­ter, it’s be­cause we met them on Costello al­bums in the ’ 80s and ’ 90s when they were al­ready half-sub­merged in re­grets. Nowa­days he reads their glances like an open book. As for the Brexit-tinged I Let The Sun Go Down (“I’m the man who lost the British Em­pire”), could its hap­less anti-hero be our ref­er­en­dum-call­ing ex-PM David Cameron? If he is, the swishy melody and el­e­gant horn ar­range­ment are a damn sight more than he de­serves. ★★★★ DAVID CAVANAGH Lis­ten To: Un­der Lime | I Let The Sun Go Down | Strip­ping Pa­per

Costello’s lyrics are sub­tle, pen­e­trat­ing and of­ten writ­ten from a woman’s per­spec­tive.

“High-pedi­gree pop-soul”: Elvis has re-en­tered the build­ing. 64-

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