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Bibliography: Articles
 

 

Review of North
Politiken, 2003-09-29
- Kim Skotte (translation by Copenhagen Fan)

 

 
Fakta
Elvis Costello: North. Producer: Elvis Costello & Kevin Killen. Deutsche Grammophon.
 

AIMLESS BEAUTY

After a couple of good pop records, Elvis Costello has positioned himself into a no-man’s land between classical and jazz instrumentation.

As one of modern pop’s and rock’s great songwriters, Elvis has written his fair share of modern classics. But this is not the only thing that is “classic” about Costello. Since his 1992 colaboration with The Brodsky Quartet, Costello has on several occasions written songs in a classical orientated context. The most noteworthy since the Brodsky Project, (The Julliet Letters), is For the Stars with soprano Anne Sofie von Otter (2000).

After the rock album When I Was Cruel, Costello with North once again makes a unique musical statement, and this with Deutsche Grammophon, itself! But does this mean that North is Classical Music? Both yes and actually no. It’s actually closer to “classical-ish”.

As a songwriter, Costello is seeking stylistic purity on North, a type of “lieder” where the incubus (you know, that Chinese thing you calculate with) of love is tallied without one single superfluous word.

The songs are in the classical format, but without the little extra superfluous word which is the key to the personality behind the lyrical mastery, Costello manages to expose himself and show vulnerability as a singer.

As a vocalist, Elvis Costello has his own style and is expressive, possessing a very limited vocal range. The wavering of Costello’s melodic vibrato on North makes his voice into a grating monotone instrument. The songs have otherwise great potential.

Costello has entered a relationship with Jazz godess Diana Kraal. He should give her a bunch of songs as a wedding present and let her totally unfold her unique jazz and seductive artistry. On his own Costello cultivates a stone cold and elementary hybrid between classical ballads and implied jazz. This strategy
doesn’t hold water, as Costello presents his songs in a sterile way, rather than interpret them.

The arrangements are beautifully sculptured but also unnecessarily barren. Peter Erskine’s snare drum whispers of jazz, but it is strictly forbidden to swing. On a few occasions, the music drifts over in the direction of musicals and Gershwin, but without the ability to conjure inner pictures of dancing lovers, who fall in and out of love.

Pianist Steve Nieve from the Attractions is Costello’s continuous accompaniment on North, who in combined with a woodwind section, shifts between a classical and jazzy approach, which does not do justice to either of these two musical worlds, with the exception of the exceptionally great alto sax solo that Lee Konitz closes “Someone Took the Words Away”, with and the flugelhorn playing of Lew Soloff, which lifts “Let Me Tell You About Her” into acceptability.

It is warmth that is missing in the cold North. A controlled and consequent formal construction, which even Costello himself can’t help but sabotage (corrupt) with the bonus track “Impatience”.

Suddenly efter 12 tracks and in the 11th hour it swings! With Pete Thomas on drums, Davey Farragher on bass and the tricky Marc Ribot on guitar.

Sublime pop from a long and forgotten old movie


Formålsløs skønhed

Elvis Costello har efter et par gode popplader begivet sig ud i et ingenmandsland mellem klassisk og jazz-instrumentering.

Elvis Costello: North

Af kim Skotte

Som en af den moderne pop- og rockmusiks store sangskrivere har Elvis Costello skrevet sin del af nutidens klassikere. Men det er ikke det eneste klassiske ved Costello. Siden han i 1992 indledte et samarbejde med Brodsky Kvartetten har Costello ved flere lejligheder skrevet sange i klassisk orienterede sammenhænge. Mest kendt siden Brodsky-projektet 'The Juliet Letters' er 'For The Stars' med sopranen Anne Sofie von Otter (2000).

Efter rockpladen 'When I Was Cruel' indtager Costello med 'North' igen et musikalsk særstandpunkt og det på selveste Deutsche Grammophon. Men betyder det så, at 'North' er klassisk musik? Både og og egentlig ikke. Snarere klassicistisk.

Som sangskriver søger Costello på 'North' den rene form. En slags lieder, hvor kærlighedens regnebræt gøres op uden et eneste overflødigt ord. Sangene er klassiske af format, men uden det lille ekstra overflødige ord, der røber personligheden bag det formelle mesterskab, lader Elvis Costello også sig selv i stikken som sanger. Som vokalist er Elvis Costello karakteristisk og udtryksfuld. Og i besiddelse af et meget begrænset register. Rovdrift på Costellos melankolske vibrato gør den på 'North' til et enerverende monotont instrument. Sangene har ellers potentiale til noget stort.

Costello er blevet kæreste med jazzgudinden Diana Kraal. Han burde give hende en buket sange i morgengave og lade hende udfolde hele sin unikke jazz- og forførelseskunst. På egen hånd dyrker Costello en marmorkølig og firkantet hybrid mellem klassicistisk ballade og antydet jazz. Strategien er uholdbar. Costello fremlægger sirligt sine sange, snarere end han fortolker dem.

Arrangementerne er skulpturelt smukke, men også ubegrundet kropsforladte. Peter Erskine trommeskind hviske-tisker om jazz, men det er strengt forbudt at swinge. Flere gange strejfer musikken over i retning af musical og Gershwin, men uden evne til at fremkalde indre billeder af dansende elskende, der falder for og fra hinanden.

Pianisten Steve Nieve fra The Attractions er Costellos faste akkompagnatør på 'North', der imidlertid i blæsersektionen veksler mellem en klassisk og en jazzet tilgang, der næppe tilfredsstiller nogen af de to verdener, hvis man ser bort fra den ualmindeligt dejlige altsax-solo, som Lee Konitz lukker 'Someone Took The Words Away' med, eller det flygelhorn, hvormed Lew Soloff løfter 'Let Me Tell You About Her' ind i varmen.

Det er varme, man savner i det kolde 'North'. En konsekvent kontrolleret formel konstruktion, som Costello alligevel ikke kan dy sig for at torpedere med bonusnummeret 'Impatience'. Pludselig på tolvte skæring og i tolvte time swinger det! Med Pete Thomas på trommer, Davey Farragher på bas og snurrige Marc Ribot på guitar. Sublim salsabefængt pop fra en overset knaldperlefilm. Det er fuldstændig absurd. Her er opskriften på et forrygende og anderledes Costello-album. Som altså ikke blev lavet, men ofret på de højkulturelle ambitioners blodfattigfine alter. 'All This Useless Beauty' hedder et af Costellos tidligere album. Formålsløs eller ej er skønheden sit eget formål. Som i dette tilfælde desværre næppe vil angå mange andre end den selvbestaltede skønhedsekspert selv.

 
         
 

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