Getty | Getty It's been a great year for music. But what's been even…
- Posted on Nov 2nd 2010 10:00AM by Kenneth Partridge
Steve Jennings, WireImage
Performing 'National Ransom,' the title track from an album due out the next day, Costello and the gang seemed ready to saddle the horses, load the rifles and ride two miles south from the public radio station to Wall Street, home of the villainous financiers the song takes to task.
"Around the time the killing stopped on Wall Street," Costello sang, expressing bemusement and rage as only he can, "you couldn't hold me, baby, with anything but contempt."
In one of the brief interview segments that, along with songs from 'National Ransom,' made up WNYC's hour-long live broadcast, host Leonard Lopate asked the legendary British rocker to what extent his new songs reflected the recent economic downturn.
"I think we're all a bit bewildered," Costello said, pointing a finger at the bankers he feels betrayed the public's trust. "Either they're liars or they're incompetent."
But Costello -- rock 'n' roll's erstwhile "angry young man" -- was in no mood to rant. He wants to be Mark Twain, not John Wayne, and he mostly talked music, explaining why his new group, an ensemble containing many of the same musicians he used on last year's 'Secret, Profane & Sugarcane,' doesn't play straight-up bluegrass music, as some critics have suggested.
"If I could play bluegrass, I'd be a much better guitar player," Costello said, adding that his last two albums have incorporated various styles of music -- old-timey country, sure, but also rock 'n' roll.
The stomping, hollering likes of 'A Slow Drag With Josephine,' 'The Spell That You Cast' and 'National Ransom' underscored that point. The last of those, in particular, is a twanged-out, electric-fiddle-flecked reimagining of 'You Belong to Me,' from Costello's 1978 classic 'This Year's Model,' an album that, like his latest, he cut in just 11 days.
"I don't see why it necessarily takes longer than 11 days to make an album," Costello said.
Throughout the interview, Lopate referred to 'National Ransom' as a CD, and while it is being released in that format, Costello repeatedly teased the radio veteran, insisting he call it a "double LP," on account of the vinyl edition he prefers. Costello also had a habit of looking over Lopate's shoulder, reading his questions before he could ask them, and the two engaged in several rounds of playful sparring.
When Costello, responding to a question about his eclectic career, joked that his next project would involve puppetry, because he'd like to "try his hand at everything," Lopate shot back with a quip of his own.
"This is supposed to be Lopate and Costello," he said, "not Abbott and Costello."