DePauw University DePauw, February 28, 1978

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New rock 'n' roll may stomp disco?

Costello: avant-garde '50s

Scott Hamilton

With the kegger scene in full swing, and the housedance schedule coming up, it is evident that the strains of Saturday Night Fever and related disco rubbish are the sounds to which today's dancers relate.

Besides dominating the dance floor, these sounds are saturating the radio. Elvis Costello isn't jiving to those tunes.

Costello, an avant-garde 50's phenomenon, wears black horn-rims, a flat-top haircut, straight-leg blue jeans, white shirt and narrow tie. His ponderous posture makes him look like Woody Allen in the midst of an epileptic fit.

He's a smash in Times Square, but his one and only album, My Aim is True, has been greeted by the American public with spotty success.

Costello says his album reveals revenge and guilt. To accentuate these feelings his songs are short and powerful: "When the song is over I want to leave the listener with a gut-level emotion."

Just listening to the titles one can understand why this homely man has plenty of gut-level emotions. "Welcome to the Working Week," a scant 72 seconds short, gives a dreadful account of the nine-to-five, five-days-a-week life. "Welcome to the working week / Oh I know it don't thrill you, / I hope it don't kill you...."

Since Elvis is so sleazy it is easy to assume that he never even got a date to the prom. Many of his numbers deal with dancing. "Mystery Dance" and "No Dancing" deal with his inability to hit the hardwood.

Most Costello fans agree "Watching the Detectives" is his best piece. This ballad is concerned with a guy trying to make passes at his girl — who is unfortunately engrossed watching "The Detectives." The song contains the classic line, "She's filing her nails as they're dragging the lake."

The sound and arrangement of his music is nothing original. "He blasts out a stream of riffs that recalls the piston rhythms of Chuck Berry, Bill Haley, Little Richard and early Beatles," Time magazine said.

However, its originality lies with the times. Disco. soft rock and country-western are currently dominating the Top 40 charts. His music is an amalgamation of 50s rhythms with the energy of today's punkers.

Costello was born Declan Patrick McManus in suburban London. At 19 he signed a contract with a recording company for an amp and a tape recorder. Last year he signed with Columbia Records. Being the underdog and Horatio Alger-type, he convinced Columbia in an unusual fashion.

When he heard London was the site for the International Record Executives Convention, he raced to the London Hilton to perform in the lobby. When he was released from jail for public misconduct, Columbia signed him on the merit of his audition.

Observers of today's society tell us we are shifting back to the right. Back to apple pie, baseball, and Mom; back to old-time religion, simpler lifestyles, and less sophistication. Costello doesn't date back that far, but he's a revival of an old theme.


The DePauw, February 28, 1978

Scott Hamilton reviews My Aim Is True.


1978-02-28 DePauw University DePauw page 05 clipping 01.jpg

1978-02-28 DePauw University DePauw page 05.jpg
Page scan.


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