Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello

In Motion Pictures

Universal Music Enterprises

After five killer albums, Elvis Costello drifted off his punk roots and embraced country, folk, and ballads as my tastes headed down the now embarrassing road of synth pop. While his work over the past years offers solid musicianship and composition, it no longer calls out for revolution or even a killer party. But these are the years that pulled him out of the dissipative mass of punk musicians and made him into a polished and respected composer; his work with film soundtracks gave him a medium where the music must support the story, not propel it.

Universal released this themed compilation of Costello’s film work, and it offers insight into his skills without becoming another “greatest hits” release. The fun of this collection is the number and variety of films he helped score, and some of these cuts were never released on albums. “My Mood Swings” underscores the dental exam scene in The Big Lebowski, the edgy “Miracle Man” seduces Don Corleone’s daughter in The Godfather Part III, and he even teams up with Q-Tip for “Oh Well” from Prison Song. Costello’s “A Town Called a Big Nothing” riffs on Sergio Leone and the spaghetti western theme, and “Crawling to the USA” is the sort of melodic punk we aging hippies loved about late ’70s music.

The material here covers Costello’s various styles, so expect a bit of cognitive dissonance if you listen to it in one go. Each of these songs stands alone, and it’s easier to examine them intellectually without the distraction of a bigger story that you have to look at. This is an eye opener to old fans who last danced to “Veronica.”

Elvis Costello: elviscostello.com

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