When I first heard this song I thought it was unrecognisable as the Elvis Costello I’d heard before.
The new-wave choppy riff; the angry-sounding organ; and an urgent tempo- that’s what you’ll have become accustomed to. So, I took to Youtube and sped it up to one and a half times speed- that’s what this song would have sounded like forty years ago.
But it isn’t forty years ago. “I don’t spend my time perfecting the past, I live for the future” says Costello. That seems to be the approach for the new single and new album Hey Clockface – it’s quite a diverse album musically with less focus on typical band-style sounds with guitars and drums etc. It’s fresh music with a chilling storyline and many references to the media- specifically newspapers. Hetty O’Hara Confidential is about a columnist’s power and eventual fall from grace when she makes mistakes in powerful circles whereas Newspaper Pane starts with a woman who sees all these celebrities in the paper, reads about them and sighs at a life that she can never have.
Then it goes through this woman’s personal history. Focusing on great love and loss that she has experienced. The music intensifies with heavier horns and organ volume as she reminisces over some of the painful memories she has while she’s trapped in the room- wishing for a better life.
If you read that and thought it was a bit much then you can, of course, listen to the song at face-value and bop along to the plodding melody without the references to death, sorrow and entrapment but chances are if you’re doing that- you aren’t listening to Elvis Costello anyway, so this will be of no interest and I urge you to stop reading three paragraphs ago.
The artwork that goes along with the string of songs that will fit into the new album is sort of elementary and messy with lots of splashes and splodges of colour. If you watch the video on Youtube or the graphics on Spotify, it sort of paints a comic-strip style story along with the lyrics- some of which I’d quite like to have on my wall, especially the concentric circle amps that feature in the intro.
I’ve listened to the song twelvety-hundred times now and I can confirm it improves. That’s the case with most of the album that I’ve heard so far and the slower tempo for Newspaper Pane allows you to hear the story that Mr Costello has decided to tell us all. So, gather round his campfire of cynicism and listen in.
By Adam Baker
Feature Image Credit: Concord Records