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Elvis Costello Look Now

Both physically and creatively, Elvis Costello is alive and well.

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by Jason Lewis, UK Music Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: December, 2018
You Shouldn't Look at Me That Way

11. Look Now - Elvis Costello and the Imposters (Concord)

When Elvis Costello released his weighty autobiography (the 670 page ‘Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink’ - 2016), there was a sense that he was marking the end of an era.  It had been six years since his last album and, despite collaboration with The Roots, it felt as if he had said all that he needed to say, it felt like an ending.  Sure, he would continue to perform live, but the prospect of him actually recording and releasing any new music seemed highly unlikely. 

That’s why ‘Look Now’ initially feels a little confusing. This is a proper EC album.  The Imposters are back in the studio for the first time in a decade, a couple of co-writes with Burt Bacharach (‘Don’t Look Now’ and ‘Photographs Can Lie’)   are dusted down, a song written with Carole King is finally recorded (the anguished ‘Burnt Sugar is so Bitter’) as well as one that he penned for the King inspired biopic ‘Grace of My Heart’ (the glorious sixties girl group inspired ‘Unwanted Number’).

This is not to infer that ‘Look Now’ is a hotchpotch of old and unused songs, as this material perfectly suits the wise but wounded romance of the album.  Like Costello’s previous collaboration with Burt Bacharach (‘Painted from Memory’ – 1998), there’s a grown up broken-hearted mood throughout the record, although this time around there are warm memories (‘Stripping Paper’) mixed in with the sadness.   The other factor that makes ‘Look Now’ such a success is the presence of The Imposters (much more than The Attractions with a different bass player), who sensitively interpret the numbers.

The fact that Costello and The Imposters recently revisited much of the material from their 1982 ‘Imperial Bedroom’ album on tour is another key to the musical approach of ‘Look Now’.   ‘Imperial Bedroom’ was an elaborate musical project, a mature collection of songs with ornate strings and horns arrangements.  Similarly, ‘Look Now’ echoes this sophisticated approach, but whereas ‘Imperial Bedroom’ occasionally felt too clever for its own good at times, all of the elements on ‘Look Now’ are perfectly aligned. 

The real gem on ‘Look Now’ though is curiously placed at the end of the EP that comes with the Deluxe edition of the album.  Written for the soundtrack of ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’, the song ‘You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way’, is easily one of Costello’s finest ever love songs, a subtle orchestral arrangement and one of his most moving vocal performances. If I had one quibble with ‘Look Now’ it’s that this song isn’t part of the main collection.  

from the jimmy kimmel show. Still got it.

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Jason Lewis
UK Music Editor

Jason Lewis is a Birmingham based music, movie and arts obsessive. Jason's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.

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