The last time Elvis Costello negotiated the MM switchboard, it was to let us know that he was on his way around to Berkshire House to personally deliver the test pressing of a song called "Pills And Soap" that he was rush-releasing under the pseudonym of The Imposter.
Almost a year later, Elvis was back on the line to the Maker. Last Thursday, he called to tell us that he was releasing a new Imposter single, "Peace In Our Time," a song he had premiered at his Hammersmith Odeon shows last December. We couldn't expect a personal call on this occasion, he teasingly apologised: that afternoon he was due to shoot a new video and finalise the details of his forthcoming solo tour of America.
"Anyway," he continued, "I don't think this time I have to explain the politics of the song, it speaks for itself really. It's just a song that I wanted out right now for reasons I think will be obvious when you hear it."
Produced by the Clanger/Winstanley team who were also responsible for Punch The Clock and due in the shops by Monday, April 15, "Peace In Our Time" continues the kind of political commentary that's always been apparent in Costello's writing, but which found its most explicit expression with "Shipbuilding" and "Pills And Soap." Originally performed as a solo number, this recorded version sets Elvis' yearning, resonant vocal against acoustic guitar. Steve Nieve's muted keyboards and a discreetly poignant brass arrangement.
Written in a style that purposefully recalls the manner of classic Sixties' protest songs, "Peace In Our Time" is full of biting, sardonic humour, cutting irony and heartfelt sentiment. Opening with a brilliant evocation of the 1938 Munich Agreement, it subsequently takes in the aftermath of the Falklands' fiasco, the invasion of Grenada, the wider threat of nuclear war ("...there's a light over the sea burning brighter than the sun / and a man sits alone in a bar and says, 'Oh, God, what have we done...'"), and the current build-up to the American presidential campaign ("...there's already one spaceman in the White House / what do you want another one for?"). The language is as direct as the melody, the chorus simply affecting: "...the bells take their toll once again in a victory chime", Costello sings, with a savage restraint, "and we can thank God that we've finally got peace in our time."
The B-side of "Peace In Our Time" is a solo acoustic version of Richard Thompson's bleak lament, "Withered And Died," which originally appeared on Richard and Linda Thompson's classic 1973 LP, I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight. It was produced by Costello and Colin Fairley, who co-produced "Pills And Soap." The single will appear on the Imposter label.
Meanwhile, Costello was due to fly to America on Monday (April 9) for a three week solo tour. "I still don't know what I'll be playing," he said "It's all a bit nerve-wracking really. I don't have anybody to ask, you know, but at least there'll be no arguments over what should be in the set. It'll be a change, anyway, and a challenge, which is the whole point of doing it."
After his solo tour, Costello meets up with the Attractions for tours of New Zealand and Australia, with as yet unconfirmed plans for British dates in the autumn.