Elvis Costello and The Attractions' summer album release, Punch the Clock, is just another punch of the record industry's time clock.
The addition of a dominant horn section is a change from the clean-sounding Jazz-Master guitar of Elvis' early days, but the sounds of every artist evolve with time and the brass adds an interesting dimension to his music. The Attractions' background vocals are enhanced by the female vocals of Afrodiziak.
Still, Elvis remains basically the same. Social commentary regarding beauty, belligerence and false national integrity abounds as it does in all his previous releases. The lyrics are still obtuse and somewhat mystifying, perhaps more than before.
Most old-time Elvis fans attest that this is a quality production, but will add that they were hoping for something different and more exciting.
Side one opens with "Let Them All Talk," providing the initial aural impression of the horn section. Their bouncing, boisterous lead gives momentum for Elvis' non-stop lyric rambling. With a start like this, the album promises to be a winner.
"Every Day I Write The Book" is the most popular tune on the LP, played constantly on FM radio. A slow rocker with a heavy beat and a simple but effective bass-line, it serves as the background for some of Elvis' most impressive vocals on the album. Added female vocals are the final touches which give this hit a lot of polish.
"Love Went Mad" features Steve Nieve's keyboards and The Attractions' elaborate harmonies.
Its dancing high-register piano chords contrast greatly with the tone of the next cut, "Shipbuilding," which Elvis co-wrote with producer Clive Langer. A masterpiece of inner meaning, this story is inspired by the Falkland Island Crisis. It's a tale of a lower middle class English town in which war is about to solve the unemployment problem by creating a need for warships. Jazz great Chet Baker's trumpet solo adds a touch of class.
Side two begins like side one with a fanfare of horns in "T.K.O. (Boxing Day)." The high quality instrumental work is overshadowed by a virtually indecipherable lyric.
Those looking for something new and different will have to either wait (or Elvis' next album and hope for a change or look somewhere else.