Backed by the Imposters and a nine-member string section, Costello once again sings from the perspective of a woman, this time the mistress of a wealthy man giving the kiss-off to her former lover.
Track 11, ‘Why Won’t Heaven Help Me?,’ could have fit right in on 1993’s pop album Punch the Clock, especially during its delightful chorus. But that delicious ear candy is blended with the stately classicism of Costello’s more recent work.
‘Suspect My Tears,’ the tenth track on Elvis Costello’s Look Now, is truly a wild ride. Ignore the lyrics and it sounds like a full-blown schmaltzy 70s love song. He wrote this one alone, but it could easily pass for one of his earlier Burt Bacharach collaborations.
Read the lyrics, though, and you’ll realize this is a bitter attack by a man who has grown tired of his lover’s crocodile tears and is threatening to shed some of his own. It’s the nastiest song on the album.
I don’t know if it’s a coincidence that it’s also my least favorite song on the album. Costello isn’t exactly known for his romantic side.
“Least favorite” sounds a little harsh, though every list has to have something at the bottom. It’s more accurate to say this is the song I’ve taken the longest to warm to.
While longtime Costello bandmate Steve Nieve plays the piano on most of Look Now, Bacharach himself tickles the ivories on this track. His classy, delicate playing is a perfect compliment to Costello’s hushed vocals.
This is the funkiest, grooviest track on Look Now but it doesn’t feel out of place. Costello has a way of skipping through genres on a single album without sacrificing the cohesiveness of the whole. This might be his Imperial Bedroom meets Painted From Memory album, but that doesn’t mean he can’t slip in a little Get Happy!! or Trust.
It’s also the moment I realized Look Now may well be Costello’s best album since 1986’s King of America and Blood & Chocolate. Bold statement, I know. And while I can make an argument for Spike, Brutal Youth, Momofuku and National Ransom, this album taps the vein of classic Costello in a way none of those releases did.