ELVIS COSTELLO – ” Hey Clockface “

Posted: November 1, 2020 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Elvis Costello has released a new album, “Hey Clockface”, recorded in Helsinki, Paris, and New York. The album, released October. 30th, is his first new music since 2018, and is at times playful, on other occasions introspective. The highlight is its jaunty title track; listen to it and many of the other tracks below. Hey Clockface was recorded in Helsinki, Paris and New York and mixed by Sebastian Krys in Los Angeles. Following the solo recording of tracks, No Flag, Hetty O’Hara Confidential and We Are All Cowards Now at Suomenlinnan Studio, Helsinki by Eetü Seppälä in February 2020, Costello immediately travelled to Paris for a weekend session at Les Studios Saint Germain. Costello tells us, “I sang live on the studio floor, directing from the vocal booth. We cut nine songs in two days. We spoke very little.  His strikingly good 31st studio album, “Hey Clockface,” which dropped October 30th, and a deluxe vinyl boxed set commemorating his third album, the 1979 masterpiece “Armed Forces,” which arrives just a week later, on November 6th. There is a lot of clock-punching, or smashing, to go around in this sudden flurry of releases.

These old and new works are almost ridiculously incomparable in style, but there is a striking commonality. “Hey Clockface” doesn’t sound remotely like his last album, “Look Now,” which didn’t sound like any of the ones before it. And “Armed Forces” found Costello already shedding the lean, frantic signature sound of the prior record, “This Year’s Model,” to embrace the possibilities of the studio in a more ambitious and even grandiose way. 

Watch the video for “Hey Clockface”/”How Can You Face Me”

Almost everything the musicians played was a spontaneous response to the song I was singing. I’d had a dream of recording in Paris like this, one day.” The assembled album, Hey Clockface is “An Elvis Costello & Sebastian Krys Production” following on from their work together on Elvis Costello and The Imposters Grammy-winning album Look Now. The motion picture of We Are All Cowards Now by Eamon Singer and Arlo McFurlow features images of flowers and pistols, smoke and mirrors, tombstones and monuments, courage and cowardice, peace love and misunderstanding. Specifically, what Costello had done was take time out before and during those tour dates to book quick, experimental sessions — by himself, as a clanging one-man rock band in Helsinki, and with a jazzy combo of Parisians put together by his keyboard player Steve Nieve in France. (He had even booked time with his touring band and his old producer Nick Lowe in London, with a whole different set of songs earmarked to work on, but those plans got scotched and will wait for another day and another album.

The ensemble, dubbed, “Le Quintette Saint Germain” by Costello, was recruited for these dates by Steve Nieve (who plays grand piano, upright piano, organ, mellotron and melodica) and features Mickaél Gasche on trumpet, flugel horn and serpent, Pierre-François “Titi” Dufour on cello, and the drums, percussion and high harmonies of Ajuq. Listen to the beautiful instrumentation on “The Whirlwind”

Reed player Renaud-Gabriel Pion plays contrabass clarinet, bass clarinet, Bb clarinet, tenor saxophone, bass flute and cor anglais. The Paris sessions were recorded by François Delabrière. Watch the video for “We Are All Cowards Now”

The New York sessions were produced by composer, arranger and trumpet player, Michael Leonhart in collaboration with guitarists, Bill Frisell and Nels Cline and completed, lyrically and vocally by Costello, “via Electrical Wire.” The musician had been teasing the first two songs’ release in late spring and early summer with a series of tweets that featured some of the songs’ lyrics and illustrations from the music videos. Costello performs Hammond organ, Fender Jazzmaster, upright piano, Rhythm Ace and “all other noises.”

“She could kill a man with a single stroke,” he sings on “Hetty O’Hara Confidential.” “She is not the one you want to provoke.” Watch the lyric video for “Hetty O’Hara Confidential” 

As with all of us, 2020 has been a memorable year for Elvis Costello, though he has several unique reasons. On February 14th, he became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, at a ceremony overseen by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace.

And though his celebrated career is decades old, Costello had never won a Grammy Award for one of his albums. That all changed at the 62nd Grammy Awards, held on January . The musician won for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for his Oct. 2018 release, Look Now. The legend had previously won in 1999 for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals, with Burt Bacharach.

“You may be joking, but I don’t get the gag,” he sings in “No Flag.” “I sense no future, but time seems to drag.” Watch the lyric video for “No Flag” There’s some days where none of it matters, and it doesn’t mean anybody would want to stay there forever, but maybe it’s better to write that out in a song.” Costello says he has no need to “live in the past, trying to summon up some old kind of fury. Because I’ve got all the fury that I need right now. Put on ‘No Flag’ and tell me which track on ‘This Year’s Model’ is more aggressive than that. There isn’t one.”

All songs written by Elvis Costello except as noted. On Aug. 28, Costello surprised his audience with the release of a spoken word song, “Phonographic Memory,” described as “the B-Side of the recently released, ‘We Are All Cowards Now’“Phonographic Memory” imagines a post-war ceremony involving an archive recording of the voice of Orson Welles and someone identified only as “President Swift”. The recording takes the form of a short story recited over an open-tuned acoustic guitar soundtrack and as such is unique in Costello’s recorded catalogue.

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