When Elvis first appeared in 1977, I thought he was a squid, but I didn't care because of his snarling manner and angry rock songs.
He's actually quite charming, even though he's still sort of a squid. He's lovable really — not at all threatening.
Punch the Clock finds Elvis making few changes in his sound. He's been influenced by Stax-style R&B; he uses horns and female backup singers here. More and more, however, Elvis sounds like his great ambition is to be a romantic crooner.
Experience has certainly made his voice more flexible and pleasing than in his early days. And I don't think there's too many other rock 'n' rollers nowadays who could get away with a song as sappy as "Everyday I Write the Book." Sample these two lines: "Chapter One we didn't really get along / Chapter Two I think I fell in love with you." It's amazing that people persist in calling him a punk.
As always, Elvis loves to play with words: "...it's a wonderful world ...where a shower of affection becomes Niagara Falls" and, "There are ashtrays of emotion for the rag ends of aristocracy." Elvis brings his social consciousness to "Pills and soap" ("You think your country needs you but you know it never will"), and "Mouth Almighty" serves as a revealing confession:
But I used to shoot my mouth off
Till you'd had enough of me
Once or twice nightly
I know I've got my faults
And among them I can't control my tongue
Most of the others are love songs, though all are typically hook-laden. The Attractions contribute another good performance, especially my favorite, pianist Steve Nieve. Nieve, by the way, proves that his exquisite arrangements for Imperial Bedroom were no fluke.
It almost seems transitional, as though he were waiting for greater inspiration, recording this in the meantime. Either that or he's finally settled into a comfortable recording approach, instead of shifting from R&B to country to whatever each time he goes into the studio.
Regardless, Punch the Clock is a consistent album, very professional in every way and likely to satisfy his growing audience.