Sunday, November 15, 2020

Hey Clockface - Elvis Costello - Review

Reliable rocker, Londoner and veteran of the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, Elvis Costllo releases his 31st studio album, hello clockface.

We open with a jaunty rift of piano and guitar, almost 1920s, the kind of thing you’d hear in the closing credits of Boardwalk Empire. The story of the song however is more reflective and wise than the bootleggers of the Boardwalk, who preferred to shoot and ask later. 

Hey Clockface reflects the ultimate truth that everyone must live by: life will go on, clocks will go on ticking, the earth will go on spinning. When you fall in love it is as if time stops – or you wish it would – but time waits for none of us, and seems especially cruel to those with broken hearts. As Costello ponders: “you said you’d be a friend to me/But time is just my enemy”

He is aware that this is a sombre thought which is why the tempo and rag time jazz of the song is so reminiscent of the carefree excess of the 1920s – like a flapper you pick yourself up, shake off the dust and feathers, and go out strutting down the street to the shriek of the saxophone and reassurance that you still can, despite your broken heart. 

Costello appears to channel his inner Billy Joel’s Movin’ Out as the song progresses: he has simply accepted that time might very well leave him behind as he explains “now there’s a nail on a bare wall/where your face once hung”. Time controls our day to day lives and our relationships but Costello ignores it, he is moving on and will do so with a skip in his step, regardless of what any clock says. This is a song that many broken hearts could have heard a long time ago, including those girls who were brave enough to shorten their skirts and go without corsets 100 years ago who ended up lonely and sad on the sidewalk.   

Jennifer Walne


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