I have a love hate relationship with Elvis Costello. Sometimes I really enjoy his music, it is uplifting and amazing; and then there are times that I find him (to quote Family Guy here) both shallow and pedantic. To this end I thought he would be a perfect blog for today; I wanted to go for something that would be slightly new yet familiar to me. A bit of a background update at this juncture - this is the second Elvis Costello album and his first with his backing band, the Attractions. Back in 1979, the main musical fashion was punk rock and new wave (and of course shite pop which seems to stay around like a plague). Elvis Costello was straddling the punk and new wave camps and was riding the charts around the world, making number 4 in the UK with this album and achieving Gold record status in the UK, the USA and Canada as well. Not too shabby for your second record by any standards, so does it stack up 35 years later?
Whilst it may seem tame by today's standard, this was cutting edge at the time according to some sources. But even for the time this has a little extreme about it, maybe the cutting edge material was meant for the lyrical, yet even on this score Mr Costello is more of a romantic poet than cutting edge commentarial on this album. It would be year's before we would get songs such as "Oliver's Army" and "Shipbuilding". Yet the signs that there is quality here is unmistakable. This album has a couple of bonafide classics on it in the shape of "Pump It Up" and "This Year's Girl". Some songs are beyond their year's and these are two classic cases, they are timeless and so simple that they become more complex. Other wonderful moments include the loving slow moving "Hand In Hand" which just are designed to make the heart swoon.
That said this album does feel like work in progress in some ways. It is not bad, but apart from those few amazing songs it is just a good album, not a great album. The band and Mr Costello are feeling each other out to what would become a very successful partnership. Whilst I can see the charm of "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea" and "Lipstick Vogue", they just don't register on my radar at all. The album has a quaint charm and it's a great starting point on the long and interest career of the Paddington born song-smith. As I said, some bonafide classics on this album, but the rest of the album is just a decent piece of 70's new wave pop.
7 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check
You can purchase one of the versions of the album on Amazon here
You can visit the Elvis Costello website here
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
Here is a video of "Pump It Up".