We’ve lost count of how many times Elvis Costello has “retired”, citing public apathy and industry misbehavior. Yet again, in the midst of his most recent recording hiatus, comes a Costello release with little more about it than a surefire way to simultaneously take his most fervent supporters’ money and draw their ire. Having accomplished both with this correspondent, we report herewith on In Motion Pictures, an alleged celebration of his appearance on movie soundtracks.
If it collected every extraneous song written for films without repeating songs already available, then we might have something. Instead, in a clear attempt to seduce a crowd outside of the usual Costello diehards, it opens with “Accidents Will Happen”, already collected on every one of his hits collections (not to mention the Armed Forces album) and included here solely because a character can be heard self-consciously singing it in E.T.. Likewise “Miracle Man”, “Lovers Walk” and “I Want You”—all album tracks borrowed decades after their initial appearance.
Other songs haven’t exactly been rare for years. “Crawling To The U.S.A.” and “Seven Day Weekend” each appeared on B-sides compilations and expanded album reissues, just as “Days” and “Oh Well” have been available for some time. “God Give Me Strength” went on to spur a whole album. Only “A Town Called Big Nothing”, ignored in the Rhino years, can be considered a fresh find, though EC fans have it already.
So is there anything here for people who try to limit the Costello section of their CD racks to jewel boxes with his name on the spines? Well, kinda. “You Stole My Bell” comes from the pre-When I Was Cruel period, and “My Mood Swings” will be familiar to Big Lebowski fans. (Both also credit co-writing to ex-wife Cait O’Riordan, which is nice of him.) The newest song is “Sparkling Day”, from an Anne Hathaway movie nobody saw, with a string arrangement that links well to the next track. The inclusion of “She”, from Notting Hill, makes a little sense, since it was pretty big hit, and gives some of us a chance to remove the 1999 best-of from the rack.
The album also has him squarely straddling the pop and “alternative” worlds, with none of the country or bluegrass shades from his last two real albums. The hard part is assigning a rating. From a musical standpoint, In Motion Pictures is palatable. On the whole, it’s inessential. The biggest value will most likely be the thinly veiled “ghostwritten” liner notes, which make clear reference to all the songs that weren’t included—many of which would have been welcome over the retreads.
Elvis Costello In Motion Pictures (2012)—3