Featured Album – Hey Clockface – Elvis Costello

“I don’t spend my time perfecting the past, I live for the future ’cause I know it won’t last.”  Newspaper Pane

If the last album you heard by Elvis Costello kicked off with him sounding like the angry young man, know that he is now 66 years old and don’t be so fucking surprised when his new album starts off with some Sting-sounding world music thing. It’s called “Revolution # 49” and while I’m all for artists stretching themselves. I could live without hearing it again.

We saw Elvis about two years ago and while we enjoyed it, I was disappointed that EC has started to fashion himself into some latter-day crooner (like his dad.) I don’t expect him to spend the rest of his life singing “Radio Radio” but c’mon man, you must be pissed off about something. 

According to the Boston Globe, the album’s “eclecticism is rooted in the way in which its songs came to be. Costello recorded three of the album’s tracks, working alone, in Helsinki last February. He then headed to Paris, where he recorded nine songs a few days later with an ensemble, led by stalwart collaborator Steve Nieve, that Costello dubbed “le Quintette Saint Germain.”

Then the pandemic intervened. The music for the two remaining tracks on “Hey Clockface” was recorded in New York by Michael Leonhart, with contributions from Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, and others; Costello added lyrics to complete them from an undisclosed location “via the miracle of telecommunications,” as the press release for the album puts it.”

“No Flag” is the first real song on the album and it rocks out pretty nicely. But the first song I really got into was, well, a ballad of sorts called “They’re Not Laughing At Me Now.”

Tell me, how does it feel?
In the hour of deception and the moment of pretend
To be scorned by those rank and those unkind strangers
You were fool enough to call your friends

Will you say as the curtain descends?
“They’re not laughing at me now”

Spotify link

Somewhere along the way, EC developed a taste for jazz. I wouldn’t call him a jazzer per se but the title tune has that jaunty early-jazz feel. I wouldn’t be surprised if Woody Allen didn’t find a place for it in his next movie.

Here’s “Hey Clockface” with John Baptiste from Stephen Colbert’s band.

Spotify link

The whole album’s below but I’ll leave you with “Newspaper Pane” which has a strange “Watching the Detectives”-like moodiness:

Spotify link

I guess that before the shit hit the fan pandemic-wise, Elvis was gonna record with Nick Lowe and the Attractions. I like this album and I will be spinning it a few more times for sure. But I also wouldn’t mind hearing This Year’s Model Part 2 someday.

16 thoughts on “Featured Album – Hey Clockface – Elvis Costello

  1. I’m definitely a fan of his earlier work, but I’ll give this a fair listen. Perhaps his jazz tastes are Diana Krall’s influence; Canadians can be a tad insidious.

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    1. Yes, another commenter mentioned that and I’m sure that was part fo it. But EC’s tastes are incredibly eclectic. And he grew up with this stuff. His father was a big band singer in England named Ross McManus. He sang with a unit called the Joe Loss Orchestra. I know this because I did a series on EC a while back.

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  2. Just giving the album a listen now. ‘No Flag’ just kicked in. It has some good energy. I’m an Elvis guy but man these guys are hard to keep up with. I hear Bruce has a new album out. That’s how up on things I am. I’ll get to it. Overwhelming

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    1. Yeah it does but the rest of the album is mellower, or at least EC mellow. But I like it. Just came out today. Probably the first album I ever reviewed on release. I’ll be giving Bruce’s album a spin too. Good timing. The two guys have been friends for something like 40 years. Have you seen EC out and about while you’re walking around?

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  3. You beat me to the punch with this one. 🙂

    While I’m not super familiar with Elvis Costello, I had known his new album would come out today and was planning to cover it. Previously, I included “No Flag” (when everything still looked like a series of one-off singles) and “Hey Clockface” (when it became clear all these single would be included on a new album) in “Best of What’s New” installments.

    I’m going to check it out.

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    1. It’s rare that I beat anybody to the punch on anything on this blog. In the five years I’ve been blogging I think this is the first time I’ve reviewed an album the day it came out. I remember your “new tunes” post. I’m surprised to hear you say you’re not super familiar. I kind of assumed you were. He’s been one of my top guys for years, Top Ten up there with the Dan, Springsteen and all those guys. Consider that he’s written with both McCartney and Burt Bacharach! If you don’t know those first three albums really well do yourself a favor and spin them. They are great!

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  4. I like that comment from the Anonymous guy. Like his style. Some guy that looked like EC was busking outside the my local liquor store and hawking his new CD.
    Listened to the whole thing yesterday. It’s the usual high standard that he goes for. An eclectic bunch of musical ideas that grabbed my ear. You know with repeated listens it will even get better. Really dug it. Probably spin it again today. More will hit me. Nice departure with your direction and a good choice in my opinion.

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    1. Yeah I’m digging it too. Not really a rocker but he stretches out. I’ve been an EC fan since Record One and like I was telling Christian, he is one of my Top Ten guys. Great songwriter. BTW, I listened to most of Bruce’s album. Good stuff. You won’t hear anything you haven’t heard style-wise but I think you’ll dig it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m with you on EC. All the way. I’m still getting used to Bruce’s previous release (I like it). He went from the guy who didnt release a lot to the guy who is everywhere.

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        1. Yeah Bruce is a restless guy. Two albums in the past year I believe. I guarantee you he’s anxious to get back out on tour. Nothing chargers him up like that. But I think he’s got a long wait. Broadway is shuttered at least until spring. Too bad. I hear you do a mean Hamlet.

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