Like most artists that emerged during the post-punk/new wave era, Elvis Costello suffers from the same dilemma, that is, of being perpetually branded as a product of the 80s music scene.
But of course, Costello is so much more and has spent the rest of his career so far establishing himself as a songwriter extraordinaire and distinguishing himself from his peers who seem to be stuck on the endless treadmill of retro-pop festivals!
Costello is famous for his lyrics and inventive wordplay and this ability is given free reign in his first-ever memoir, the cleverly titled Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink.
Straight off the bat, it’s clear that Costello has avoided the pitfalls of the typical auto-biography by adopting a non-linear narrative, moving his focus from different epochs in his illustrious career. This keeps the memoir interesting throughout, with the emphasis on songwriting always front and centre as Costello quotes liberally from his compositions.
Costello has deft touch in detailing the key moments in his life and career – painstakingly recounting his family history but positioning them in diverse points in the overall story, to keep things fresh.
Costello writes in a self-deprecating manner which allows him to be humble and relatable especially when discussing his numerous encounters with music legends like Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Burt Bacharach, Allen Toussaint et al. His relationship with Dylan comes across as the most intriguing – highlighting Dylan’s own quirks in the process but endearingly.
But it is in his most personal darkest moments where Costello’s storytelling hits home – like in the episode regarding his father’s death in 2011 – “I looked back to the hollowed husk, still wearing a curious printing of my father’s stilled face”. Poignant yet devastatingly honest.
… still there’s more …