Ridiculous things are happening in recording, friends. 20 years ago, they were making records in garages, bathrooms, and kitchens — and getting a respectable studio-quality sound. Now, the records coming out of studios sound like products of garages, bathrooms, and kitchens. They call this technology in reverse "new wave" music, which is rather like thinking of an antique auto show as the wave of the automotive future.
At least, it would be utterly ridiculous were it not for one small fact: it appears that the top new recording act of 1978 will be from the new wave movement.
His name is Elvis, but he looks more like a cross between Roy Orbison and Woody Allen than the king. And he sounds like a mixture of Orbison, Buddy Holly, and John Sebastian. But the jacket of Elvis Costello's first album, My Aim Is True (Columbia PC 35307), owes more than a bit to the dreadful green-and-purple hues of Presley's first RCA album covers. And the sound has managed to rather faithfully recreate the hollow sound of the late fifties or early sixties.
Whether recreating early rock-and-roll recording techniques is a worthy goal depends in large measure on one's musical standards. After all, the primitive sound owes everything to static instrumentation of muffled drums, basic bass beat, and Ventures-like guitar work. It poses all the intellectual challenge of a Donald Duck comic book.
Of course, there are the visceral rewards. But Elvis pulls his punches here. I didn't come away humming Elvis' melodies, the way I did when I first encountered Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis. Which leads me to suspect that Elvis probably wouldn't stack up well against the original rockers. Like so many imitations, Elvis Costello is smaller than life.