Allow me to introduce The Globe Track of the Week.
Each week, a Globe-pal (AKA a DJ at 91.1 the Globe) takes a song of their choosing, and dishes out a healthy review to be sent out and posted on globeradio.org/music.
The Globe Track of the Week is an excellent way to keep up with the new tunes presented weekly on 91.1 the Globe, the best college radio station in Indiana.
For the Inaugural Globe Track of the Week, I have chosen to review Elvis Costello’s (EC) “Magnificent Hurt,” the first single on his latest album, “The Boy Named If,” which is set to be released on January 14th of the new year.
A new year, but the same old Costello.
The man who was once described as “The Scrabble King of rock and roll” by Rolling Stone lives up to this curious title on “Magnificent Hurt” by bending words, rhymes and rhythms that few artists would dare to inch toward.
From the opening thud of Dave Farragher’s ear-worm bass-work, to Costello’s own cutting guitar, and Steve Nieve’s wailing organ, “Magnificent Hurt” pops like a long-forgotten album track from Costello’s previous group; EC and the Attractions. While Costello’s vocal register has slowed significantly since his heyday, the growl of his tone still shines through as one of the tunes highlights.
Not to be forgotten is the percussion work; which is far from the main feature of the song, but drives it forward anyways, as all good percussion parts should do. A combination of fairly standard heavy snare taps mixed with an excellent use of handclaps makes the drumming stand out far more than the average Costello piece.
Now for the meaning. One could take an entire semester’s worth of hour-long courses in an attempt to dissect the meaning behind Elvis Costello’s words. Perhaps his most famous tune, 1977’s “Alison,” has yet to have a truly formed meaning. Thankfully, EC is a bit more straightforward with “Magnificent Hurt” than some of his previous work.
It’s about heartache, plain and simple. EC dances around the theme for the first two verses, likely because he’s too afraid to reveal that the theme of the song is one that’s existed since the first note was ever played. In fact, the lack of originality in content is likely the only thing that drags this piece down. There are millions of songs about heartache in pop music, and at his advanced age, EC isn’t going to turn anything on its head.
The piece as a whole garners an A- rating. Is it for everyone? Certainly not. “Magnificent Hurt” is made for longtime fans of EC, and the post-punk/new-wave movement of the late 70’s. Sure, Costello mixes in electronic beats with his old-fashioned sound, but the track is nonetheless a love letter to the past, with a subtle nod to his present work.
Is it Costello’s best? Certainly not. His vocal range has depleted enough from various factors that he’ll likely never reach the same level of musical success as he did in the 20th century (or early 21st for those of you who caught his work with Burt Bacharach).
Costello of all people likely knows this, but it clearly hasn’t stopped him from trying. “Magnificent Hurt” clearly echoes EC’s 2020 guitar-driven singles such as “No Flag” and “Hetty O’hara Confidential”; following the same mixture of electronic beats and in-studio mixing to carry the heaviest load.
At age 67, it’s a bit of a surprise to see Costello still pumping out music the way that he has been since the pandemic began. It was less than four years ago that the British rock and roller was seemingly done; having not released any original material since 2013. But here we are nearing 2022, and EC is set to release his third album in four years.
If “Magnificent Hurt” is a glimpse of what’s to come and not just EC’s swansong, then buckle up. We’re in for a wild rock and roll ride.
- Dante Stanton