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Elvis Costello|The Boy Named If

The Boy Named If

Elvis Costello

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These energized tracks make it clear that COVID-19's enforced isolation sparked fresh inspiration in Elvis Costello to rediscover his trademark urgency, not to mention his gifts for wordplay and melody. From the spirited, Beatlesque opener, "Farewell OK" (which has echoes of the bounce of "Welcome to the Working Week") fans of his songwriting and performances from the past will be pleased. This is the Costello you remember and want to hear again.

In "The Difference" where he asks, "Do you know what turns pleasure to plight?" an insistent beat and touch of Vox organ make for the kind of driving, New Wave pop tune he mastered forty years ago. Costello's lifelong fascination with roses (see 1991's Mighty Like a Rose) returns to tell a dreamlike story of, as he has explained, "a bereft couple … one of whom has long invited and courted theatrical darkness only for its violence and cruelty to become all too real." Set to a determined walking beat and with Steve Nieve leaning into the organ "Magnificent Hurt" resurrects much of Costello's need to testify! And it's impossible to mistake the autobiography of the title track, a man Costello describes as an "imaginary friend" and a "second, unpleasant nature."

The Boy Named If is also that rare pandemic record that sounds as if it was recorded with the band all together in the same room. A trio of strengths buoy the songs here: Costello's impassioned vocal takes—he's able to hit all the high notes, with his conspiratorial growl and rising cries both in top form; the twisting, often opaque rhymes that have always been his specialty are again in high gear, as in this couplet from "Mistook Me for a Friend"—"I count my money out/ To pay for contraband/ I carry velvet gloves/ 'Cause the black gets on your hands;" and most powerfully, Pete Thomas' incredible drumming. To repeat the adage, Thomas sounds like "a man possessed." Located forward in the mix, his clattering, fleet, forceful rhythms—always fringed with just a dash of punk rock abandon as in "The Death of Magical Thinking"—are the album's bedrock and most pronounced musical flavor.

There are of course lesser moments like "Penelope Halfpenny" which sounds like an idea that never quite gelled or perhaps is the sonic result of the remote recording process. Another inevitable side effect of this method are the sometimes abrupt endings that suddenly trail off or just stop after a chorus. Slowing to a close with a pair of ballads, including "Mr. Crescent" where his voice holds up well under close miking, The Boy Named If is Elvis Costello doing classic Elvis Costello, a glorious return from an enduring songwriting talent. © Robert Baird/Qobuz

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The Boy Named If

Elvis Costello

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1
Farewell, OK
00:02:54

Sebastian Krys, Producer, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Pete Thomas, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Davey Faragher, Additional Vocals, Bass, AssociatedPerformer - Steve Nieve, Keyboards, Piano, AssociatedPerformer - ELVIS COSTELLO, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - RON TAYLOR, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Brian Lucey, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - The Imposters, MainArtist - Daniel Galindo, Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2021 Elvis Costello

2
The Boy Named If
00:04:24

Sebastian Krys, Producer, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Pete Thomas, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Davey Faragher, Additional Vocals, Bass, AssociatedPerformer - Steve Nieve, Keyboards, Piano, AssociatedPerformer - ELVIS COSTELLO, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - RON TAYLOR, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Brian Lucey, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - The Imposters, MainArtist - Daniel Galindo, Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2021 Elvis Costello

3
Penelope Halfpenny
00:02:57

Sebastian Krys, Producer, Mixer, Engineer, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel - Pete Thomas, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Davey Faragher, Additional Vocals, Bass, AssociatedPerformer - Steve Nieve, Keyboards, Piano, AssociatedPerformer - ELVIS COSTELLO, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - RON TAYLOR, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Brian Lucey, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - The Imposters, MainArtist - Daniel Galindo, Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2021 Elvis Costello

4
The Difference
00:03:45

Sebastian Krys, Producer, Mixer, Engineer, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel - Pete Thomas, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Davey Faragher, Additional Vocals, Bass, AssociatedPerformer - Steve Nieve, Keyboards, Piano, AssociatedPerformer - ELVIS COSTELLO, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - RON TAYLOR, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Brian Lucey, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - The Imposters, MainArtist - Daniel Galindo, Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2021 Elvis Costello

5
What If I Can't Give You Anything But Love?
00:04:03

Sebastian Krys, Producer, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Pete Thomas, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Davey Faragher, Additional Vocals, Bass, AssociatedPerformer - Steve Nieve, Keyboards, Piano, AssociatedPerformer - ELVIS COSTELLO, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - RON TAYLOR, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Brian Lucey, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - The Imposters, MainArtist - Daniel Galindo, Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2021 Elvis Costello

6
Paint The Red Rose Blue
00:04:46

Sebastian Krys, Producer, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Pete Thomas, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Davey Faragher, Additional Vocals, Bass, AssociatedPerformer - Steve Nieve, Keyboards, Piano, AssociatedPerformer - ELVIS COSTELLO, Producer, Guitar, Piano, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - RON TAYLOR, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Brian Lucey, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - The Imposters, MainArtist - Daniel Galindo, Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2021 Elvis Costello

7
Mistook Me For A Friend
00:04:13

Sebastian Krys, Producer, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Pete Thomas, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Davey Faragher, Additional Vocals, Bass, AssociatedPerformer - Steve Nieve, Keyboards, Piano, AssociatedPerformer - ELVIS COSTELLO, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - RON TAYLOR, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Brian Lucey, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - The Imposters, MainArtist - Daniel Galindo, Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2021 Elvis Costello

8
My Most Beautiful Mistake
00:04:47

Sebastian Krys, Producer, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Nicole Atkins, Vocals, FeaturedArtist, AssociatedPerformer - Pete Thomas, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Davey Faragher, Additional Vocals, Bass, AssociatedPerformer - Steve Nieve, Keyboards, Piano, AssociatedPerformer - ELVIS COSTELLO, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - RON TAYLOR, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Brian Lucey, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - The Imposters, MainArtist - Daniel Galindo, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Dex Green, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2021 Elvis Costello

9
Magnificent Hurt
00:03:13

Sebastian Krys, Producer, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Pete Thomas, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Davey Faragher, Additional Vocals, Bass, AssociatedPerformer - Steve Nieve, Keyboards, Piano, AssociatedPerformer - ELVIS COSTELLO, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - RON TAYLOR, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Brian Lucey, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - The Imposters, MainArtist - Daniel Galindo, Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2021 Elvis Costello

10
The Man You Love To Hate
00:04:53

Sebastian Krys, Producer, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Pete Thomas, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Davey Faragher, Additional Vocals, Bass, AssociatedPerformer - Steve Nieve, Keyboards, Piano, AssociatedPerformer - ELVIS COSTELLO, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - RON TAYLOR, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Brian Lucey, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - The Imposters, MainArtist - Daniel Galindo, Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2021 Elvis Costello

11
The Death Of Magic Thinking
00:03:31

Sebastian Krys, Producer, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Pete Thomas, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Davey Faragher, Additional Vocals, Bass, AssociatedPerformer - Steve Nieve, Keyboards, Piano, AssociatedPerformer - ELVIS COSTELLO, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - RON TAYLOR, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Brian Lucey, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - The Imposters, MainArtist - Daniel Galindo, Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2021 Elvis Costello

12
Trick Out The Truth
00:04:53

Sebastian Krys, Producer, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Pete Thomas, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Davey Faragher, Additional Vocals, Upright Bass, AssociatedPerformer - Steve Nieve, Keyboards, Piano, AssociatedPerformer - ELVIS COSTELLO, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - RON TAYLOR, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Brian Lucey, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - The Imposters, MainArtist - Daniel Galindo, Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2021 Elvis Costello

13
Mr. Crescent
00:03:39

Sebastian Krys, Producer, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Pete Thomas, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Davey Faragher, Additional Vocals, Bass, AssociatedPerformer - Steve Nieve, Keyboards, Piano, AssociatedPerformer - ELVIS COSTELLO, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - RON TAYLOR, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Brian Lucey, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - The Imposters, MainArtist - Daniel Galindo, Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2021 Elvis Costello

Album review

These energized tracks make it clear that COVID-19's enforced isolation sparked fresh inspiration in Elvis Costello to rediscover his trademark urgency, not to mention his gifts for wordplay and melody. From the spirited, Beatlesque opener, "Farewell OK" (which has echoes of the bounce of "Welcome to the Working Week") fans of his songwriting and performances from the past will be pleased. This is the Costello you remember and want to hear again.

In "The Difference" where he asks, "Do you know what turns pleasure to plight?" an insistent beat and touch of Vox organ make for the kind of driving, New Wave pop tune he mastered forty years ago. Costello's lifelong fascination with roses (see 1991's Mighty Like a Rose) returns to tell a dreamlike story of, as he has explained, "a bereft couple … one of whom has long invited and courted theatrical darkness only for its violence and cruelty to become all too real." Set to a determined walking beat and with Steve Nieve leaning into the organ "Magnificent Hurt" resurrects much of Costello's need to testify! And it's impossible to mistake the autobiography of the title track, a man Costello describes as an "imaginary friend" and a "second, unpleasant nature."

The Boy Named If is also that rare pandemic record that sounds as if it was recorded with the band all together in the same room. A trio of strengths buoy the songs here: Costello's impassioned vocal takes—he's able to hit all the high notes, with his conspiratorial growl and rising cries both in top form; the twisting, often opaque rhymes that have always been his specialty are again in high gear, as in this couplet from "Mistook Me for a Friend"—"I count my money out/ To pay for contraband/ I carry velvet gloves/ 'Cause the black gets on your hands;" and most powerfully, Pete Thomas' incredible drumming. To repeat the adage, Thomas sounds like "a man possessed." Located forward in the mix, his clattering, fleet, forceful rhythms—always fringed with just a dash of punk rock abandon as in "The Death of Magical Thinking"—are the album's bedrock and most pronounced musical flavor.

There are of course lesser moments like "Penelope Halfpenny" which sounds like an idea that never quite gelled or perhaps is the sonic result of the remote recording process. Another inevitable side effect of this method are the sometimes abrupt endings that suddenly trail off or just stop after a chorus. Slowing to a close with a pair of ballads, including "Mr. Crescent" where his voice holds up well under close miking, The Boy Named If is Elvis Costello doing classic Elvis Costello, a glorious return from an enduring songwriting talent. © Robert Baird/Qobuz

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