South China Morning Post, October 12, 2003

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Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello
North
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Alister McMillan

Last year Elvis Costello gave us When I Was Cruel, an album that took fans back to his late-1970s soundtracks for jealous men. The song 15 Petals, however, showed more maturity. Each petal was 'for every year I spent with you ... I love you more than you know'.

Months later his 16-year marriage to former Pogue Cait O'Riordan dissolved. With it went any hope that Costello could be typecast as the master of ironic bile. North is his most open album. We've come to expect Costello to bury straightforward messages in vague, dense lyrics.

His music, we assume, will have a sophistication that sounds simple - until we hear that guy at the party battling to carry off Alison on an acoustic guitar. The music of North, though, is lush, swirling, elegant post-war pop. Its lyrics are so candid that rock's great punster admits to being lost for words. North's songs were written in sequence, tracking the collapse of his marriage and the start of his affair with Canadian jazz chanteuse Diana Krall. The first half is despondent. By track eight he's gossiping about a new pursuit ('Let me tell you about her/ The way she makes me feel/ Then draw a curtain on this thing I can't reveal').

The official final track is I'm In The Mood Again. By the time he gets through the bonus track, Impatience - the best for long-time fans - Costello discovers his 'pulse is racing still'. North won't have that effect on the listener, but it is another fine chapter in his classical pop repertoire.

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South China Morning Post, October 12, 2003


Alister McMillan reviews North.


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