If I ever met Elvis Costello, I'd buy him three pints.
One for the fresh excitement he has breathed into the music business.
Another for his ability to turn simple rhythms and melodies into something rather special.
And the third for his lyrics — bitter and angry without resorting to cliche.
Elvis Costello — the new EC — has come a long way since his time at the North Acton Elizabeth Arden factory as a computer operator.
Of course, he has gone through the whole hype/genuine talent controversy, and has emerged unscathed — partly because of the excellence of this album.
The construction appears to be in the tradition of the sixties with a set of songs that could each make it alone, if necessary.
And it will be necessary for Elvis to release a follow-up to his smash hit "Chelsea."
The clear favourite is "Hand In Hand." This brings together all the outstanding characteristics of Costello music — the pop-orientated tune, the irresistible backing from the Attractions, the totally unromantic lyrics and the almost-ugly vocals that give everything a whole new twist.
The beauty about Elvis Costello is that he can create a mood or a feeling without even trying. One half-hidden chord, one sneer is enough to turn a song into a threat. Or something different to what you thought it was in the first place.
There is, in fact, a complete range of feeling on this album encompassed in a variety of styles, from the reggae-based "Living In Paradise" to the ballady "Little Triggers" and the "Subterranean Homesick Blues" feel of "Pump It Up."