A quick one from the catch-up file:
In October, Elvis Costello released “Look Now,” his first album in five years, returning to sophisticated pop along with his band The Imposters (basically the Attractions with a different bassist).
In the album’s press release, Costello nailed the content of “Look Now”: “I knew if we could make an album with the scope of ‘Imperial Bedroom’ and some of the beauty and emotion of (his Burt Bacharach collaboration) ‘Painted From Memory,’ we would really have something.”
And, indeed, he has something — the gorgeous piano ballad “Don’t Look Now,” one of three Bacharach co-writes, slipping in next to the urgent groove of “Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter,” a Carole King co-write; the rhythm-rooted rocker “Unwanted Number” next to the horn, backing vocals and string-drenched “I Let The Sun Go Down,” a tune about the decline of the British Empire next to the funky “Mr. & Mrs. Hush.”
That’s just a brief tour through about a third of a Costello classic that, to be honest, mostly revisits old sounds and styles rather than breaking any new ground, as he attempted on 2013’s team up with The Roots, “Wise Up Ghosts.”
What “Look Now” doesn’t include is anything resembling an early Elvis rave-up. That’s not to say there aren’t some rockers — the opener, “Under Lime,” really packs a punch, albeit not at 150 beats per minute.
That’s perhaps both appropriate and inevitable. Costello’s now 64 and a cancer survivor, a pretty good jump from the angry young man of the '70s.
But no rave ups isn’t some kind of scathing critique of “Look Now,” which is a lovely record that fits, as Costello predicted, alongside the classic “Imperial Bedroom” as a sophisticated pop masterwork.