Long-time Costello watchers who welcomed the return of the old bile-spewing Elvis with last year's When I Was Cruel will be spitting with rage at North. It's an album of crooned love songs in a similar orchestrated style to Nat King Cole. However, from 1981's country Almost Blue to 1999's Burt Bacharach collaboration, Painted From Memory, Elvis has constantly confounded his own followers' expectations.
Many of us who saw Elvis Costello flipping the bird at what seemed to be the whole world back in the glory days of Saturday Night Live were probably convinced then and there that this was not a guy who was going to surrender to anybody’s expectations. And in the decades since, that’s how his career has unfolded. It may have been a leap to imagine that the nerd-gone-angry rocker would grow up to collaborate with MOR pop genius Burt Bacharach, but who could have possibly anticipated Costello releasing albums on prestigious Deutsche Gramaphon, the stalwart classical label best known as home to Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic? North is an aptly titled orchestral song-cycle of love lost and found: Costello’s lodestone points toward a cold and lonely landscape, a mood of bereavement and melancholy; an autumn that moves into winter, then a gently hopeful spring.