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Elvis Costello/The Imposters - The Boy Named If Music Album Reviews

Elvis Costello/The Imposters - The Boy Named If Music Album Reviews
On his 32nd studio album, Elvis Costello treats the traditional rock quartet as the ideal medium for delicacy, concision, wit, and the occasional harangue.

Consider Elvis Costello as the musical equivalent of the Aleph, Jorge Luis Borges’ term for “one of the points in space that contain all other points.” George Jones, Allen Toussaint, Stax, and classical music, sure; also, ABBA and Dusty Springfield. Costello’s monstrous appetite for genre has occasionally led him to believe he has mastered every genre. But his own instincts can get in the way: A punnery as dense as zircon has often interfered with the simple pleasure of a band as tight as the Imposters (aka the Attractions, with bassist Davey Faragher replacing Bruce Thomas in 2001), especially when Steve Nieve’s array of keyboards wheezed and squealed, mocking Costello’s objects of derision.

Costello fans will find many delights in The Boy Named If. For one, his 32nd studio album sounds smashing. Sebastian Krys’ mix stresses the textures of acoustic instruments without walloping listeners; Costello’s guitar, as restless as a child at a symphony even on solid albums like When I Was Cruel and Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, burrows right between Faragher’s bass and Nieve’s keyboards, enunciating hook after hook. A book written and illustrated by Costello himself accompanies the deluxe edition, but one needn’t own it to understand how the album unfolds as a series of scabrous vignettes recorded during the pandemic. The mood is splenetic, but not maliciously so, like an old codger telling decades-old dirty jokes for an imagined audience. Toughening his early gusto with decades of those genre experiments, Elvis-as-Aleph treats the trad rock quartet as the ideal medium for delicacy, concision, wit, and the occasional harangue.

An artist recording since the dawn of punk must regard new material as a set of points containing all other points. “The Death of Magic Thinking” sports the deathless Bo Diddley rhythm with which he experimented on 1981’s “Lover’s Walk.” Echoes of Spike’s song-length conceit “God’s Comic” reverberate on “Trick Out the Truth,” as approximate to the garrulous Costello of yore as the album gets. Listeners might even hear bits of 1991’s Paul McCartney co-write “So Like Candy” in the aggressive ballad “My Most Beautiful Mistake,” not to mention “Brilliant Mistake,” the 1986 quasi-country chestnut where Costello revealed his attempts at ridicule as a species of self-ridicule.

Costello has tinkered for decades with a paradox: He’s most delightful when disillusionment is the subject of his formal obsessions; he’s happiest playing a cynic who needs talking off a ledge (he names one new song “Magnificent Hurt,” of course). The superbly titled “The Death of Magic Thinking,” given added resonance by arriving mere weeks after Joan Didion’s death, wastes not a second: Pete Thomas kicks up a churn on percussion that’s almost as much a lead instrument as Costello’s stun guitar, while the singer admits how his muse—a “machine that can turn ink stains into words”—requires the “spark” of frustration, sexual and otherwise. Sometimes, anyway. “The Man You Love to Hate,” one of The Boy Named If’s more plodding moments, has Costello huffing and puffing like Laurence Olivier’s fourth-rate vaudevillian in The Entertainer.

The Boy Named If has at least two classics: “The Death of Magic Thinking,” certainly, and a ballad called “Paint the Red Rose Blue,” its strong melody sung with impressive plaintiveness. Perhaps “The Difference,” a rocker based on Paweł Pawlikowski’s Cold War, with a repeated “do ya know?” hook hounded by Nieve’s embellishments. That’s three more than on near-misses like the Roots collaboration Wise Up Ghost. Competing with a back catalog as mighty as Costello’s repertoire must suck—“history repeats the old conceits,” he acknowledged long ago. But to don “Elvis Costello” drag and record work as vital The Boy Named If after four decades shouldn’t impress this deeply. Convincing audiences that role playing is an expression of self has been Costello’s subtle lesson all along.

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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/The Imposters - The Boy Named If Music Album Reviews Elvis Costello/The Imposters - The Boy Named If Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Wednesday, January 26, 2022 Rating: 5

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