Elvis Costello - Hey Clockface Music Album Reviews

Elvis Costello - Hey Clockface Music Album Reviews
Alternating between loud, sumptuously produced rock and softer, Tin Pan Alley-inspired songs, the British singer-songwriter delivers a brooding set of songs about time’s ceaseless march.

Whoever said that rock’n’roll is a young person’s game was waiting to be proven wrong. Few know this better than Elvis Costello. Since he was a twenty-something in black-rimmed glasses, Costello’s talent for arrangement and pastiche pointed toward fruitful twilight years, particularly as he strayed from meat-and-potatoes rock and began to dabble in musical styles less invested in the cult of youth. Now 66, the British icon has only continued to diversify his interests over the decades, collaborating with the Roots and writing for the London Symphony Orchestra. Yet he’s shown himself to be at his best in two modes: making driving, surprisingly ageless rock and exploring the conventions of the American Songbook, as he did on his sublime 1998 Burt Bacharach collaboration, Painted From Memory. Costello’s latest, Hey Clockface, merges these potentially divergent sensibilities in an adventurous set of songs about time’s ceaseless march.
Costello no longer sounds quite so ageless. On the Fats Waller-quoting “Hey Clockface / How Can You Face Me,” Costello’s voice strains against gravelly limitations, complementing his elegiac lyricism. Always a wide-ranging writer, he’s managed to preserve his breadth while allowing a sense of mournful retrospection to give the record structure and focus. Affairs are related almost uniformly in the past tense, appearing far enough in the rearview mirror that Costello often substitutes wistful affection for his customary bitterness. Even sex seems more like a memory than a present reality; his “magic powers have drained,” he tells us on one song, quoting a lover who left him. He muses on his reflection throughout, wondering how others bear to look at him: Sure, faces age, but the thought that they might be windows to the soul is frightening in Costello’s world, where everyone’s past is checkered.

Musically, the album alternates between loud, sumptuously produced rock’n’roll and softer, Tin Pan Alley-inspired tracks, reflecting two disparate recording sessions. In Helsnki’s Suomenlinnan Studio, Costello played all the instruments, from the Fender Jazzmaster to the Rhythm Ace, buffing his pop-rock songwriting with a maximalist studio sheen that sounds more like St. Vincent than the Imposters. Costello even beatboxes on the curveball “Hetty O’Hara Confidential,” about a once-towering gossip columnist whose work has become outdated in an age when “everyone has a megaphone.” In Paris, Costello linked up with jazz players, including a cellist and a brass section, who improvised much of their performance. The Paris sessions yielded the record’s most powerful songs, such as “They’re Not Laughing at Me Now,” with its poignant flügelhorn trills, and “What Is It That I Need That I Don’t Already Have?,” a masterfully evocative exploration of the 32-bar form. The dueling approaches of the two recording sessions enrich each other, providing Hey Clockface with its yin and yang. Alone, either style might have seemed like predictable genre play for Costello at this stage in its career, but together, they make for an album that’s energetic and consistently surprising.

America’s rich musical history and ubiquitous cultural sway have long factored heavily into Costello’s work. Accordingly, to finish Hey Clockface he turned to a group of New York musicians who contributed their parts remotely. Bill Frisell, one of Americana’s great experimenters, layered guitar loops, as did versatile improviser Nels Cline. The present state of the country is all over the record, like a wraith haunting the American Songbook. After the fractured warmth of the Paris-recorded “I Do (Zula’s Song)” we get the sumptuous “We Are All Cowards Now,” its lyrics dipping into the voice of someone who’s scared of a government taking away their guns, while “No Flag” plays like a national anthem entangling nihilism and narrow-mindedness. “No sign for the dark place that I live/No God for the damn that I don’t give,” Costello sings; “We want everything and we don’t want to share/Outer space for the faces we fear.”

Hey Clockface’s Tin Pan Alley-bred schmaltz is self-conscious and even gleefully deliberate, yet there are moments when it can be overpowering. The speech that begins “Radio Is Everything” employs a dizzying series of internal rhymes (“screams,” “regimes,” “seems”; “that trivial, sniveling rosary, that ring-a-ding rosemary”) that are distracting in their florid excess. Yet by combining such mannered lyrical tropes with music that sounds alternately nostalgic and dystopian, Costello’s noirish atmospheres suggest another populist American tradition: the pulp mystery. His killer, of course, is time. On an album that has him narrating the decline of so many characters, Costello finally seems aware that the clock has it in for him, too.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Elvis Costello - Hey Clockface Music Album Reviews Elvis Costello - Hey Clockface Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 Rating: 5

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