Posted: December 26, 2018 in CLASSIC ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Elvis Costello Look Now artwork

Elvis Costello might be one of the most dexterous and accomplished pop songwriters of the rock era, but he’s not above dipping back into his own well on occasion. The singer has spent a lot of time in recent years touring and performing 1982’s Imperial Bedroom, so it makes sense that his latest outing, Look Now, smacks of that record’s baroque pop flair. With The Imposters back in tow, Costello’s first record of new music in five years is an intricately detailed and meticulously crafted affair, one longer on arrangements and musicianship than rock and roll spit and vinegar.

A veritable jack of all musical trades, Costello has canvassed just about every genre imaginable over the course of his 40-year career. He can play the part of the crooning balladeer (“Look Now”, “Stripping Paper”, “Photographs Can Lie” ) just as easily as he can the fiery bandleader (“Mr. and Mrs. Hush”, “Unwanted Number”). Look Now album boasts a little of both, but, generally speaking, the record is a relaxed hang defined much more by piano, strings, and winds than Costello’s rock and roll pedigree. But it’s hardly a snoozer, either. Subtlety might reign, but there’s a swanky, sophisticated cool coursing through Look Now that punches it up in even its hushest moments

Elvis Costello  has always had a talent for writing songs that you feel with your whole body, and “Under Lime” might be his most orgasmic yet. Following up with the “Jimmie” we left “standing in the rain” on National Ransom, Costello delivers a peppy, poppy homage to an illicit backstage tryst between the older showman and the daffy young assistant on a low-budget “Mystery Guest” TV show. Costello’s vocals are satin-sinister, sweet as honey on one line and a dangerous purr in the next, and Pete Thomas’ clockwork drumming keeps everyone in check. But it’s Steve Nieve who steals the show with a ragtime piano that hits its frantic, fiery peak at the tail end of the last verse, and the song ends in a glorious shudder. I’m not ashamed to say I actually swooned when I heard him play it live this past November.

After canceling a slew of European tour dates, Elvis Costello is bouncing back from a “small but very aggressive cancerous malignancy” . Elvis Costello & The Imposters are Steve Nieve (keyboards), Davey Faragher (bass), Pete Thomas (drums) they recorded Look Now in Hollywood, New York City and Vancouver, British Columbia.

This LP marks Costello’s first release since 2013’s Wise Up Ghost with The Roots and 2008’s Momofuku with The Imposters.

“I knew if we could make an album with the scope of ‘Imperial Bedroom’ and some of the beauty and emotion of ‘Painted From Memory’, we would really have something”, Costello says of Look Now. The album is entirely written by Costello, save for “Don’t Look Now,” “Photographs Can Lie” and “He’s Given Me Things” which were co-written by Burt Bacharach. “Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter” was written with Carole King.

“Look Now’ is an outstanding 12-strong addition to his song catalogue. Elvis Costello’s 30th album –co-credited to the Imposters, basically the Attractions with a different bass player — is his strongest in years.

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