Now 67, our favourite bolshy Londoner has returned to his 70s roots with his punchiest album since 1978’s This Year’s Model.
The Boy Named If is an invigorating mix of fierce melodies, sharp lyrics and New
Wave energy with its feet in pub rock and feisty 60s pop. You could imagine The Beatles belting out Farewell, OK in their sweat-soaked early days in Hamburg clubs.
He’s charting a betrayal – ‘A fumble for heaven in a thimble of draft’ – and it’s glorious. The album’s loose theme is growing up, a much longer process than it used to be. Highlights include Penelope Halfpenny, vintage
Costello pop underpinned by Steve Nieve’s swirling organ. It has a similar drive to Pump It Up but is more whimsical.
The edgier title track is about your other self – the part of you that shirks responsibilities and breaks hearts, “even your own”.
Elvis’s lyrics still delight, whether he’s “in the parlour, playing cards with Gustav Mahler”, or recalling”a part-time waitress with a dream of greatness” (My Most Beautiful Mistake). The driving Mistook Me For A Friend finds him “working miracles, for petty cash and chemicals”.
Costello has done interesting work recently, with 2020’s Hey Clockface, the French EP it inspired, and remaking This Year’s Model as the Latinflavoured Spanish Model. But this, his 32nd album, is top notch.