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18 June 2011

Elvis Costello - 'My Aim is True' (Columbia)

The black and white pattern on the front cover of My Aim is True makes a moire pattern that is somewhat dizzying, and also suggests some two-tone ska bullshit, which Elvis Costello most definitely is not. (Although 'Watching the Detectives' gets close with its reggae groove). Things aren't so black and white for young Declan McManus, but given the decades-long career that would follow from this, he's remarkable confident in his songwriting in our earliest recorded output. Some would even say his aim was true. This is a record that launched a million imitators, while itself being a perfect pastiche of British pub-rock, punk attitude, and 60's hooks. I have always liked these early Elvis Costello records a lot despite how often I've had to hear them; the songs are simple, short, and there's a lot of them -- a few too many, maybe, as I could live without 'Sneaky Feelings' or 'Pay It Back'. All great bitter rock songs are made greater when that bitterness is so obviously motivated out of fear. They become infinitely adaptable; when you're young, you can rage along with it all and when you're older you can infuse the tunes with your own experiences. The sentiments on My Aim is True are not exactly teenage, but definitely laced with more fire than resignation. I actually really like the punchiness of the backing band, Clover - there's a rough edge that fits perfectly with the Stiff records sound that I didn't appreciate either when I was back in college. 'Miracle Man' is absolutely rifftastic; even the hit ballad 'Allison' has some lovely guitar intertwining in the intro passage. Nowadays I don't listen to these records much, but they're nice to have around when I'm in the mood. I usually overlook this and Armed Forces in favour of This Year's Model, but there's a reason this has so much fame and notoriety.

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