My Aim Is True is a very intriguing album by an artist who is, to say the least, unusual.
Elvis Costello is the best thing New Wave rock 'n' roll has brought us, although they haven't brought us much. Blondie is attractive, the Ramones are amusing degenerates, but you can dance to Elvis Costello.
A lot of Costello's music is reminiscent of the l960s. The arrangements are simplistic but not primitive. Costello's music seems to borrow licks and inspiration from the Stones, Presley and the Ronettes.
Like many '60s musicians, most of Costello's songs are no longer than three minutes. This is irritating to most album-oriented music fans who are used to songs which are less abrupt.
The most prominent example of his abbreviated style is "Welcome to the Working Week," which is a tight, driving rocker with fascinating lyrics. For as many strong points as this brief song has, it leaves the listener feeling cheated.
In contrast, Costello's best song is "Watching the Detectives," a pseudo-reggae piece which is pre-dominated by heavy, almost sinister bass lines. It's a very cutting examination of our television-dominated society, and the callous yet involved attitudes which people exhibit toward television. In "Watching the Detectives," a gorgeous heroine is at home watching Beretta or Kojak and:
She's filing her nails while they're dragging the lake
she's watching the detectives
oh he's so cute
they beat him up until the teardrops start
but he can't be wounded because he's got no heart
Side two can't deliver all the energy and vitality the majority of side one contains. For example, the strongest song here, "Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes" sounds more like a parody of Costello's music than something he wrote. The back-up singers do their wisecracking harmonies with feigned innocence which counterbalances the cynical emphasis in the song.
My Aim Is True has flaws in several areas, but this album will create a strong cult following. It is not for everybody. Perhaps Costello's aim will be more true on his second album.