Spooky, Middle Eastern music soundtracking spoken word. Interesting start. I dig it.
This was the first single. Liked it the first time. Haven't played it since. Still holds up. Crunchy and angry, like something off "Blood & Chocolate."
THEY'RE NOT LAUGHING AT ME NOW***1/2
A beauty, like a classic Elvis ballad. Would not be out of place on "King Of America" or even "Spike." Builds nicely. Voice sounds great.
Building on a repetitive riff, something about the refrain feels late 60's, Buffalo Springfield, even a little psychedelic Grateful Dead comes to mind. Great vibe all around.
I DO (ZULA'S SONG)***1/2
Piano, brass and strings. Smoky like Sinatra on "Only The Lonely." Again, EC's voice is terrific. Lovely.
WE ARE ALL COWARDS NOW***
Kind of clanky, has a classic EC bridge, similar to "Pills & Soap." Good stuff.
HEY CLOCKFACE/HOW CAN YOU FACE ME?**1/2
40's or 50's dancehall? Clarinet gives it a New Orleans feel. Enjoying the restraint in the vocals. Fun change of pace.
Really stunning. Absolutely beautiful. Piano and brass. Costello's falsetto is wonderful, as are the harmonies. My favorite track, so far.
HETTY O'HARA CONFIDENTIAL**
I think this was the second preview track. Didn't dig it when I heard it then. Very much like "Hurry Down Doomsday," which I never cared for. Weakest track, so far.
THE LAST CONFESSION OF VIVIAN WHIP**1/2
Piano, strings, brass, woodwinds, all very understated. Has the same feel as "North," but here EC is not oversinging. A good thing. Pretty.
WHAT IS IT THAT I NEED THAT I DON'T ALREADY HAVE***
Very Jacques Brel. I'm really loving ECs vocals on this whole record. He's serving the arrangements instead of trying to top them. Very nice.
RADIO IS EVERYTHING**
More spoken word, this one over ambient music very similar to Eno on "Another Green World" or "Music For Films" for the first half, closing with something closer to Tom Waits. I don't mind it, though I hope this doesn't become a habit.
I CAN'T SAY HER NAME**
Another nod to the classics. Cole Porter, Gershwin. Has a "Makin' Whoopee" feel. It's fine, but maybe one too many at this point.
Another beauty. Could be another from the Bacharach sessions. Really gorgeous and a fine, fine way to close things out.
If you are the Elvis Costello fan who gave up at "Almost Blue," I can't imagine this record is for you. On the other hand, if you've embraced the changes, the brilliant acoustic country and blues of "King Of America," the sweeping pop and balladry of "Painted From Memory," the funk textures of "Wise Up Ghost," the love letter to New Orleans with Allen Toussaint "The River In Reverse" and the most recent change of pace, "Look Now," one of the best of EC's career, then get ready for "Hey Clockface," because on first pass, this is a winner.
Considering the circumstances of its creation--isolation, quarantine, three cities with two different sets of musicians--this is remarkably cohesive. Costello's singing never gets over the music, and while that may be offputting to those who want to hear "Oliver's Army," the songs on "Hey Clockface" are as melodic and heartfelt as anything in his career.
This was one pass. Things may change, for better or worse. But what a first pass! Great record!