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Elvis Costello tackles the transition to adulthood on riotous new album

ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE IMPOSTERS – THE BOY NAMED IF..

Elvis Costello solidified his place as a national treasure during the pandemic with a dogged release schedule that included Hey Clockface, a sideways look at ageing and the relentless march of time.

Elvis Costello tackles the transition to adulthood on riotous new album
Elvis Costello tackles the transition to adulthood on riotous new album—

The Boy Named If functions as a kind of sequel – a collection of songs about the juddering, hormonal transition from childhood to adulthood.

The album is based loosely on the idea of having an imaginary friend who “you blame for the hearts you break, including your own” – and is accompanied by a book containing illustrated short stories expanding on the songs.

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In contrast to the apparently whimsical subject matter, Costello delivers a riotous collection – some of his fieriest music in years.

On tracks such as the Farewell, OK, he amps up the energy while retaining the melodic streak of Hey Clockface.

And his voice, coarsened by age, only makes his reflections on youth more poignant.

This is most clear on Paint The Red Rose Blue, where he conjures up a bereaved couple over plaintive country rock.

In these songs, Costello is telling stories about people and places but it would be easy to draw parallels with his own transition into manhood – and stardom.

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