Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter

Elvis Costello and The Imposters present Look Now

Elvis Costello and The Imposters Look Now, Concord 2018

Elvis Costello and The Imposters are back, and arguably better than ever with his latest record, Look Now.

Packed from top to bottom with luxuriously soulful swagger, reflective lyricism, and Costello’s innate pop sensibilities, refined from years in the studio and on the stage, Look Now starts with a bang with “Under Lime” and finishes with the introspective “He’s Given Me Things,” which co-writer Burt Bacharach describes as some of the best singing Costello has ever recorded.

Despite a 2010 statement that he didn’t plan to record anymore, Look Now will be Costello’s second release in the eight years following, alongside Wise Up Ghost, his collaboration with Roots in 2013. However, following a wildly successful Imperial Bedroom & Other Chambers tour across the United States last summer, Costello’s suspicions that it was time for The Imposters to return to the studio were confirmed.

“I knew if we could make an album with the scope of Imperial Bedroom and some of the beauty and emotion of Painted from Memory, we would really have something,” he said.

Rock and Roll Globe can confirm without a doubt that Costello and The Imposters do, in fact, have something. But for fans of this particular lineup, it’s a far cry from the rock and roll bombast of 2008’s Momofuku. The rock influence is softened by orchestral arrangements, jazz-influenced melodies, and hints of 70s pop, while highlighting Costello’s role as a rock and roll chameleon; he captures the fiery energy of a frontman in tracks like “Mr. and Mrs. Hush” and “Unwanted Number,” while delicately carrying the quiet introspective soul of “I Let The Sun Go Down” and “Stripping Paper.”

Photo by James O’Mara

Recorded in Hollywood, New York City, and Vancouver and featuring longtime bandmates Steve Nieve on keys, bassist Davey Faragher and Pete Thomas on the drums, Costello and The Imposters prove once again that they can bring the same intensity to the studio that they display on stage every night. Written almost entirely by Costello and featuring collaborations with Burt Bacharach (“He’s Given Me Things,” “Don’t Look Now,” and “Photographs Can Lie”) and Carole King on “Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter,” The Imposters are tight and grooving, alongside producer Sebastian Krys. “When Pete and Davey are in this kind of rare form, it’s wise to get on the back-beat with your Telecaster and stay out of their way,” Costello said of the driving rhythm section. Dynamically astounding, Farther and Thomas guide the songs on a sonic journey, following Costello’s vocals as they ebb and flow. Regarding his own role as co-producer, Costello said, “I had all of the orchestrations and vocal parts in my head or on the page before we played a note, so it was essential that I worked closely with Steve Nieve to maintain the light and space in the arrangements and allow him to shine.”

The climactic track, “I Let The Sun Go Down,” might be the perfect example of the synergy between Costello, Nieve, Faragher, Thomas and Krys; a little psychedelic and hinting at Costello’s lifelong love for the Beatles, it bridges the gap between the softer tracks on the record before launching into the funky delivery of “Mr. and Mrs. Hush.”

The Imposters’ ability to play off on one another while never outshining or stepping on each other is further testament to their long relationship, both on stage and off. Costello added his own guitar, vibraphone, and celesta parts, but trusted Krys’s judgment, stating, “Sebastian was there to make sure only the essential notes got onto the record, whether it was a fuzz-tone guitar or jazz bassoon.” He went on to say, “In the final mixing, Sebastian did a beautiful job of keeping everything present but always lead by emotion or narrative, although when balancing the band, my voice, and the quartet of woodwinds and horns that I’d written for “Stripping Paper,” I told him to ‘just trust the blur.’”

It might have started as a blur, but the result is a sharp, swanky record, redefining the expectations of Imposters fan and launching Costello into a new era while maintaining his legendary cool. “’The Elvis Costello Record Shop’ is open for business again,” Costello finished.

Standout Tracks: “Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter,” “Unwanted Number,” “I Let The Sun Go Down,” “Mr. & Mrs. Hush,” “He’s Given Me Things.”

 

Look Now Full Track Listing

  1. Under Lime
  2. Don’t Look Now
  3. Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter
  4. Stripping Paper
  5. Unwanted Number
  6. I Let The Sun Go Down
  7. & Mrs. Hush
  8. Photographs Can Lie
  9. Dishonor The Stars
  10. Suspect My Tears
  11. Why Won’t Heaven Help Me
  12. He’s Given Me Things

Deluxe Special Edition Tracks:

  1. Isabelle In Tears
  2. Adieu Paris (L’Envie Des Étoiles)
  3. The Final Mrs. Curtain
  4. You Shouldn’t Look At Me That Way

 

 

 

Luci Turner

Born on the Okefenokee Swamp and raised on rock 'n roll, Luci Turner is a full-time musician and writer whose passion for music led her to Atlanta. She's most often found packing a suitcase, digging through a pile of records, or looking for a time machine to the 70s.

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