The Helsinki Sound: Elvis Costello’s ‘No Flag’

Ready to rock ‘n’ roll? Elvis Costello’s back with his new song ‘No Flag’.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 13: Elvis Costello performs live on stage with The Imposters, during their 'Just Trust' tour, at Hammersmith Apollo on March 13, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Jim Dyson/Getty Images)

Elvis Costello is a British punk legend that has (practically) had an influence over every other band since the eighties. His iconic reign continues, having just released his latest smash-hit: ‘No Flag’, along with an animated lyric video.


The track comes after a brief hiatus, being his first release since 2018 with ‘Look Now’ (that you should also have a listen to if you have yet to check it out). ‘No Flag’ overflows and roars with rock and roll, jazz and fierce echoes of drums and bass. As well as the instrumentals of the song, Costello’s lyrics state:

 “No time for this kind of love / No flag waving high above / No sign for the dark place that I live / No God for the damn that I don’t give”

Costello’s voice remains distinct just like it has been over the years and an authoritative tone is established right from the get-go. His use of the lyrics express a sense of confusion with the current state of the world, and despite being written back in February, the track’s release has been timed perfectly. Reflecting on his lyrics, the song communicates a level of frustration which listeners will collectively feel with the artist. 

Embed from Getty Images

In the making of ‘No Flag’, Costello explained ‘I wanted to go somewhere nobody knew me’ – presumably to allow him to refocus his work, and what he wants to create. Costello has even described this particular song as ‘The Helsinki sound’, since it was recorded in Helsinki, Finland. I think his choice of recording this song in Finland has worked wonders for him musically. This release takes Costello in a new direction from his previous sound, it’s fresh but also feels more personal to the artist. Considering that the instrumental credits list only Costello: “Elvis Costello – Mouth, Drum, Fender Jazzmaster, Hammond Organ and Bass.” I presume that his new music is going to be more focused on Costello’s creative perspective.

Embed from Getty Images

 “No Flag” was recorded by Eetu Seppälä – assisted by Tim Mikkkola – in Helsinki and mixed by Sebastian Krys in Los Angeles. The song also is accompanied by an animated lyric video illustrated by Eamon Singer and Arlo Mcfurlow. The video features images of overlapping flags from many different countries, as well as galactic paintings which play alongside the instrumentals. The animated video, personally, is very transformative. It makes me feel like I am in a whole other universe (metaphorically speaking) and can take the opportunity to look at the world from a different lens. Like stated earlier, this music takes a new direction and the video only further emphasises and highlights that this is new in comparison with Costello’s previous work. The visuals allude to a range of new ideas and values, giving the audience an insight into what is yet to come from the artist.  


Elvis Costello’s song is also not the last of his musical journeys, as we’ve been told to “look out for the next instalment of this story on July 10th”.


Both the song and the lyric video are available now from Concord Records. So if you are yet to listen or discover this song, get to it! 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *