Thursday, September 27, 2007

No. 168: My Aim Is True

Band: Elvis Costello
Album: My Aim Is True
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Costello's first album is probably his fiercest. The Brit's genre-hopping and lyrical inventiveness are well-pronounced on his debut album, as he took his pub-rock antics to the recording studio.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I think this is about right. It is, in my mind, the best Costello record and that deserves to be somewhere in the 150-ish range.
Best song: The melancholy fuck-you ballad "Alison" has wonderful double-meanings. "Welcome To The Working Week" is an abrasive opener.
Worst song: "I'm Not Angry" isn't great.
Is it awesome?: It's close.

I've mentioned my general disinterest in Elvis Costello, but I do find "My Aim Is True" to be his best record. Full of genre-bends and smart lyrics, "My Aim Is True" is singable and fun.

"Miracle Man" has Costello running with some biblical references and twisting them, while "Less Than Zero" is a polemic against (literal) fascist British politicians. "Watching The Detectives" is a Clash homage in the form of a sound reggae record. "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes" is classic Costello with disjointed lyrics and Costello's classically nasal vocals. "Blame It On Cain" has a similar bent, only with a fantastic guitar line.

Of course, "Alison" is the record's centerpiece. Filled with backhanded compliments and desperate pleas, the song is a plea from a wronged man to his ex-lover. Still angry, the song uses odd phraseology ("my aim is true" and "somebody better put out the big light" both could be references to the protagonist murdering the song's namesake) and wonderful unhappiness ("sometimes I wish that I could stop you from talking/ When I hear the silly things that you say") to avenge the breakup. In referencing Alison's wedding and her happiness, his sarcasm can't really be contained.

Also, the reference to masturbation in "Welcome To The Working Week" is one of the best-penned lines in rock and roll history:

Now that your picture's in the paper being rhythmically admired

"Rhythmically admired." How great is that?


Overall, "My Aim Is True" is a pretty wonderful record. While the rest of Costello's catalog gets real old, real quick, his debut is excellent.

1 comment:

kellydwyer said...

If you think this is his best record, then kindly check out any Graham Parker record from this era, or the last few Brinsley Schwarz ones. EC is outright copping from Parker, and a lot of the licks and rhythms are straight from the Brinsley/Dr. Feelgood pub rock blueprint.

Just bought the "deluxe", re-re-re-re-reissue last night, and it was well worth it. Costello doesn't get why people drool over this record, but it's an outright stunner. To come out of the gate so fully formed -- amazunk.