Tuesday, October 2, 2012

168 My Aim Is True. A hit

Album: My aim is true
Artist: Elvis Costello
Year: 1977
Genre: Rock


  1. Welcome to the Working Week
  2. Miracle Man
  3. No Dancing
  4. Blame It on Cain
  5. Alison
  6. Sneaky Feelings
  7. (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
  8. Less Than Zero
  9. Mystery Dance
  10. Pay It Back
  11. I'm Not Angry
  12. Waiting for the End of the World

Some artists wear their influences on their sleeve. You can hear their musical forefathers in every note they play and every track on their album. As soon as you hear a Stevie Ray Vaughan album you can immediately tell he's drawing heavily on Hendrix and Buddy Guy. Listen to a modern blues guitarist and you can spot SRV's influence in everything from their soloing to their onstage posturing.

Elvis Costello however appears to have been influenced by everything. Listening to My Aim Is True it's impossible to pin down exactly which box Costello is trying to put himself into. When he deposited this on the desk of record executives they must have done themselves scalp injuries scratching their heads trying to work out what the hell it was. 1977 was an era in which record companies liked things in boxes and there's no convenient package to put Elvis Costello in. How do you pin down someone who loves Burt Bacharach and the Grateful Dead but has clearly been listening to modern radio and paying a lot of attention?

There are a lot of people out there who can classify themselves as "True Originals" who can't be pinned down, defined and easily catalogued. A lot of these people make terrible music but Costello is actually a talented guy. He can write songs and he can write great lyrics as well. I'm not the sort of guy who normally pays much attention to lyrics. Bad lyrics will immediately turn me off but I won't listen to  music I don't like just because the words are profound. But Costello throws irresistible lines like these around...

"I said "I'm so happy, I could die."
She said "Drop dead," then left with another guy."

...and shares some insight like...

"And then they told me I could be somebody
if I didn't let too much get in my way.
And I tried so hard just to be myself,
but I keep on fading away.
Until the lights went out, I didn't know what to do.
If I could fool myself, then maybe I'd fool you too."

But don't go thinking Costello is just a poet with a backing band. He can write a tune as well which makes My Aim is True a catchy and enjoyable listen.

It might have been confusing in 1977 but thanks to it's eclectic nature and the quality of the material, Costello's debut has aged much better than lots of other things released that year. Well worth your time.

Highlight: Sneaky Feelings
Lowlight: Alison

Influenced by: The Dead, Punk and the fifties
Influenced: New Wave

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "I purchased this CD for $29.98, only to find a few days later the price marked down to $17.97."

-I can understand you're annoyed but is that any reason to give an album a one star review?

So is this a hit or a big miss? Let me know below.

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