CMJ New Music Monthly, July 12, 1999

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CMJ New Music Monthly

US music magazines


My Aim Is True

Elvis Costello

Carlene Bauer

Elvis Costello likes to strike poses. Torch singer, string quartet impresario, Jerry Garcia lookalike, soundtrack composer, blue country swain. What strikes me most, however, is the stance he took on the cover of his 1977 debut, My Aim Is True: the eloquently angry young man. As far as I can tell, that model's been discontinued. With his songs of pissed-off dissipation, Elliott Smith comes close. But the lank-haired, knit-capped Smith inhabits the existential slouch endemic to my generation. Costello, however, came out fighting, wearing his jacket and tie like a threat — he's gonna put punk in a suit and you're gonna like it. His guitar's slung across his chest like a round of ammunition. But those glasses, those cuffed jeans — are you sure he isn't going to proffer a bouquet from behind his back? His aim is true, alright. Each song on his first record explodes with idiosyncratic vision; the words pin the world down quickly, gracefully. Work is a sham: "Welcome to the working week / I know it won't thrill you, I hope it don't kill you." So is love: "I said I'm so happy I could die / She said drop dead and left with another guy." But then he's undone because some friend of his took off his girl's party dress. That's what makes the album great — the way, musically and lyrically, it straddles control and abandon, the way it drops slivers of hope into the bitterness. Elvis's 1980 album Get Happy!! contains some of my favorite Costello songs, but I love My Aim Is True for that iconic portrait and for everything it stands for — some brash, brainy English kid has come to offer us a sound salvation. Geeks never looked so good.


CMJ New Music Monthly, July 12, 1999

Carlene Bauer reviews My Aim Is True.


1999-07-12 CMJ New Music Monthly page 24 clipping 01.jpg

1999-07-12 CMJ New Music Monthly cover.jpg 1999-07-12 CMJ New Music Monthly page 24.jpg
Cover and page scan.


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