Elvis Costello: Hey Clockface (Concord) - review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, November 23rd, 2020  

Elvis Costello

Hey Clockface


Nov 18, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Following Elvis Costello’s 2018 album Look Now (recorded with his long-time backing band The Imposters), this new affair is a very different beast. Starting off with “Revolution #49” and its spoken word poetry layered on top of what sounds like some of the late ‘80s melodies he wrote on songs like “Any King’s Shilling” and “Last Boat Leaving” (both from 1989’s Spike), the album then explodes with the corrosive and incendiary “No Flag,” a track as fine as any Costello has written in years. Recorded by himself in Helsinki and full of piss and vinegar, it’s the kind of song that fans who only like the younger, more aggressive Costello tend to venerate and favor compared to much of his quieter, more reflective, and experimental material. Its frustration and lack of belief, however, sounds perfect for the frustration of the current political climate.

From there, though, the album takes a very sharp left turn from which it doesn’t deviate. Backed mostly by a group of Paris-backed musicians who are friends of his longtime keyboardist/arranger Steve Nieve, stylistically it is all over the place, a common theme for this restless artist throughout the course of his 43 year long professional career. Some of the highlights include the torch song “Hetty O’Hara Confidential,” the also politically-prescient “We Are All Cowards Now,” and the absolutely gorgeous closer “Byline,” reminding this old fan of 2002’s “Radio Silence,” the brilliant closer from that year’s incredible When I Was Cruel.

If this album has one major issue, though, it’s the sequencing. Because it jumps around stylistically from song to song, it feels jarring and takes many listens to fully sink in. That is fine, though, because at the end of the day, this is a record that fans will no doubt go back to years from now and rediscover. While not one of his very best albums, this is yet another fine addition to an incredible career. (www.elviscostello.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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