This Year's Model
No access to subject equals dry read

Elvis Costello - A Biography
Tony Clayton-Lea         (Andre Deutsch, UK Pounds 12.99)

Declan McManus and Thom Yorke have more in common than the latter's
hat-tipping respect for the former's lyrical mastery. But even in his
most extreme, bile-spitting moments, the Radiohead frontman would be
hard pushed to match the acidic bitterness of Costello, the former
computer operator once driven by revenge and guilt to pen such
magnificently barbed songs.

By fiercely guarding his privacy, Costello has managed thus far to
tiptoe around the analytical beam of the rock biographer. Attractions
bassist Bruce Thomas's touring memoir The Big Wheel has proved the
most revealing insight yet, and with the publication of Clayton-Lea's
unauthorised biography, it remains so.

The author was denied access to his subject, and he appears to have
made little attempt to interview any of Costello's colleagues and
cohorts, resulting in little more than a cut-and-paste job. Moreover,
while trawling through a subject's childhood often results in
drudgery for the reader, Clayton-Lea takes matters to the extreme: by
page 16, Costello is already recording My Aim Is True, his debut

While not helped by an overly chirpy writing style ("Oh, Mr Costello
.... Really!") the author ill-advisedly eschews anecdotes for a
methodical, chronological pick through his remarkable career, neatly
- and frustratingly - glossing over the finer details of The
Attractions' inner friction. Nevertheless Clayton-Lea has a firm
understanding  of the man and his music, proving insightful when
picking apart the image and marketing problems that have constantly
dogged Costello.

At the end of the day, there's little arguing that the facts are
here, along with the figures. But where are the thrills and the
spills and the bellyaches?
(3 stars out of five)
Tom Doyle