Look Now by Elvis Costello [7/10]

The fiery hero of one’s youth mellows, morphing into the hooky singer-songwriter with barbed lyrics that he always was, and he spends years expanding his palette into country and chamber pop and classical and anything at all, and then, after a brush with cancer, brings out his first record in years… what do you do? You jump in for a look-see, even though you’d grown tired of his previous decade’s direction. Elvis Costello is back with “Look Now,” teaming up with the Imposters (the Attractions ex its sacked bassist) after a decade’s separation. And the result is an exemplar of baroque pop that shades into minor-key drizzle at times. Opening track “Under Lime” is the only song with a scrape in his voice, a fulsome five-minute extravaganza, but “Stripping Paper” is equally impressive as a leisurely melodic ode to a relationship soured. Costello’s lyrics are as intelligent as ever, his tales of tarnished lives remain evocative, and the Imposters form an invisible but impressive mesh. Those are the pluses but towards the end the songs slow and drift into crooner territory. Overall, it seems churlish to desire an AYM (Angry Young Man) comeback and if you’re amenable to literate pop, “Look Now” isn’t a bad place to be.

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