A month before the pandemic hit and turned the world upside down, Elvis Costello went to Helsinki and recorded several songs, playing all of the instruments himself. Over the past few months, he’s shared “No Flag,” “Hetty O’Hara Confidential,” and “We Are All Cowards Now.” And now we know that they’re all part of a new full-length album out next month called Hey Clockface, recorded between Helsinki, Paris, and New York.
Immediately after the Helsinki sessions, Costello traveled to Paris for a weekend session at Les Studio San Germain with a small jazz ensemble, including the Attraction/Imposters’ Steve Nieve, that he dubbed Le Quintette Saint Germain. “I sang live on the studio floor, directing from the vocal booth,” Costello says. “We cut nine songs in two days. We spoke very little. Almost everything the musicians played was a spontaneous response to the song I was singing. I’d had a dream of recording in Paris like this, one day.”
That’s where Costello recorded Hey Clockface’s title track, “Hey Clockface/How Can You Face Me Now?,” which he tells Rolling Stone is “about picking an argument with time, the very clock face, either running too fast or too slow, depending on the company you keep.” While his band provides jaunty jazz accompaniment, Costello sings, “You said you‘d be a friend to me/But time is just my enemy/And it is hurting me so.” The track also quotes from Fats Waller’s “How Can You Face Me?”; listen below.
Hey Clockface is out 10/30 on Concord Records.