Music Books

Music Books

Complicated Shadows: The Life and Music of Elvis Costello

by Graeme Thomson

Canongate, 352 pp., $24 (paper)

One of many moments Mojo contributor Graeme Thomson gracefully recalls from Elvis Costello's career in order to better contextualize his "life and music" is the cry of "genius" from the audience at a 1991 concert. "Ah, not yet I'm not," Costello replies. "That's next week. And the week after that I'll be a fucking idiot again." At the time, Costello's comeback was a distress signal that the onetime New Wave geek with glasses could still summon the sting of his "coiled tight" youth, while also a reflection of the critical and commercial response to a path that once promised superstardom but now veered wildly into esoterica and perceived pretense. Thomson takes his time getting to this point, but nonetheless finds a sustaining thematic link between the notions it evokes. In other words, how did such an asshole manage to make it between blow-torching bridges and insisting on putting out records like Anne Sofie Von Otter Meets Elvis Costello: For the Stars? Thomson's distinctly un-British effort – the snide-swipes and gossip are kept to a minimum – is that rarest of rock & roll studies: expertly researched, restrained yet stylish, and in perfect tune with its subject's work.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Shawn Badgley
Somebody Up There Likes Bob Byington
Somebody Up There Likes Bob Byington
The writer-director talks about his fifth feature

April 5, 2013

Take Two Aspirin and Ping Me in the Morning
Take Two Aspirin and Ping Me in the Morning
Health care: an oral future

March 8, 2013

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle