When Elvis Costello burst on the scene in the late ’70s in the first wave of British punk/New Wave artists, he always seemed a bit different from the rest of the pack. Sure, the “angry young man” routine was not unique, but the eloquence of his rage and the beauty of his melodies made him a potent songwriting force. His first three albums — My Aim is True, This year’s Model, and Armed Forces — were as powerful a trilogy as any produced in the decade. And his willingness to experiment with other genres only made him more interesting. His foray into country, Almost Blue, was a revelation, and King of America found him mining a vein of what later came to be called “Americana” — kind of ironic coming from this most British of artists (of course, the roots of Americana come from old country and folk music, and those roots came in large part from the British isles, so maybe not so ironic after all).
He continued to crank out interesting albums ever couple of years or so up until 2010, when he began an eight-year break, which has now ended with the release of Look Now. The critics have been enthusiastic; All Music had this to say: “If you’re in the mood for a set of world-class songs dealing with grown-up themes and performed with nuance and a master’s touch, you could hardly do better.”
And here’s a nice piece in Rolling Stone, featuring an interview with Elvis himself…
How Burt Bacharach and Carole King helped Costello create the “uptown pop” of hist latest LP
By BRIAN HIATT
Elvis Costello would like you to know that Look Now, his first album in five years, is not “a little-box-with-people-going-mad-in-it kind of rock and roll record,” the kind where you “put the red light on play and hope to get the magical take.” It is, instead, what he calls an “uptown pop album” a la Dusty Springfield’s Dusty in Memphis, carefully composed in advance, complete with intriguingly astringent horn parts, plus strings and elaborate backing vocals. “You work out what you’re gonna play,” says Costello, who learned to read and write music in the early ’90s, “and then you go in the studio with confidence.”
Costello is not fond of critics’ habit of comparing new projects to old ones, but he does cop to doing it himself: “When we started out, I said, ‘If we could get the scope of Imperial Bedroom with the romanticism and beauty of Painted From Memory, we would have something.’ But does this record sound like either of those? Not really.”
The title track and the ballad “Photographs Can Lie” were both written with Costello’s Painted From Memory collaborator Burt Bacharach, who even joined the Imposters in the studio – Costello, it emerges, has been working with Bacharach for years on a musical that has yet to get off the ground. (“We ended up with an accumulation of slow, melancholy, intense ballads, and I guess that just scared the proposed producers because it didn’t involve any tap dancing.”) Costello tried to get Bacharach to write a bridge for another song, “Stripping Paper,” but Bacharach told him the song didn’t need any additions. “That was a pretty good compliment,” says Costello, who did get Bacharach to suggest a small harmonic tweak to another track, “He’s Given Me Things…”Purchase Elvis Costello’s Look Now from our friends at Twist & Shout