thu 07/07/2022

Album: Elvis Costello and the Imposters - The Boy Named If | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Elvis Costello and the Imposters - The Boy Named If

Album: Elvis Costello and the Imposters - The Boy Named If

Nothing will ever stop our super-gifted Elvis

A clever and knowing boy

There is a sense in which Elvis Costello emerged as a recording artist fully grown, with that unique vocal mix of vulnerability and insolence, savvy and often brilliant lyrics. Although he has never stopped experimenting, always with the logic of a musical connoisseur, it was all there, one could say, with “Less Than Zero”, his timeless first single on Stiff.

From the start, he was as comfortable with electrifying rock (see “Pump It Up”) as with heartfelt yet unsentimental love ballads (“Alison”). And he is in fabulous form on his new album The Boy Called If, a series of vignettes in which he conjures with autobiography, real and imagined, exploring the gap between fact and fiction, in a dazzling and often startling way. If he was born with uncanny maturity, probably the first rock star to consciously play with the myths and tropes of rock history, there is nothing that feels old or passé about Elvis, even though he references music-hall jollity as well as rockabilly madness.

The titles alone give a taste of the brilliance and characteristic quirkiness of the lyrics: from “My Most Beautiful Mistake” to “The Man You Love to Hate” and “Trick Out of the Truth”. Elvis inhabits a world of smoke and mirrors, in which relationships feature conflict as well as resolution, attraction as well as betrayal: these are songs of innocence and experience, but the transcendence they evoke – in spite of a sprinkling of references to Catholic ritual (repentance, confession, penance and more) – is more about dissembling, and the unnerving power of irony than good old mysticism.

The band are fabulous. Two of the original Attractions still play as Imposters: Steve Nieve with his spikey Vox Organ combines with the driving energy and subtle invention of drummer Pete Thomas. Their sizzling licks are supported by bass man Davey Faragher who’s been with the band long enough to make it feel an incredibly exciting and well-oiled machine. This is an album that swings and rollicks along, always tremendously entertaining, as Costello knows so well how to be. The outstanding track might be the very touching “Paint the Red Rose Blue”, a sweetly sad soul ballad, a reflection on sadness and loss in which Elvis, making the most of his trademark and still potent wounded vibrato, produces a welcome contrast to the vibrancy of the mostly upbeat material.

Elvis inhabits a world of smoke and mirrors, in which relationships feature conflict as well as resolution, attraction as well as betrayal

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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