Elton John, Too Low for Zero

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 09.24.12 in Reviews

Too Low For Zero

Elton John

Decidedly out of fashion for the previous punk-centric period, Elton in 1983 — a year defined by British New Wave and the resurgence of African-American pop — once again feels far more contemporary; a status affirmed by producer Chris Thomas, who hooks him up with synths, Linn drums and some snapping ’80s snares.

A retro vibe with the old band intact

But the vibe is more retro: Elton reunites the old band and writes the entire set with Bernie Taupin, who pays him back with his two most memorable lyrics of the decade. “I’m Still Standing” revisits Motown with autobiographical and proud results, while “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” taps into the singer’s melancholic streak far more effectively than the last few discs’ maudlin ballads.

The familiar chemistry makes even the second half’s filler agreeable. The closing album track “One More Arrow” yields another gay lyric of substance, and although the arrangement gets schmaltzy, Elton’s falsetto-laced vocal does not.