Lincoln Star, August 18, 1983

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Lincoln Star
  • 1983 August 18

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Elvis Costello took the time
to do 'Punch the Clock' right

Mike Butler

As everyone knows, there are only two ways to get any job done. You can punch the clock and go through the motions or punch the clock and take the time to do it right. "Punch the Clock" is the title of Elvis Costello's new album, and he took the time to do it right. The disc is a welcome return to the Attractions' frenetic pace of This Year's Model and Trust.

Costello's odd passion play that was Imperial Bedroom, his previous album, and Almost Blue, his LP tribute to country music, seems to have recharged his batteries. He's back with a big, brassy sound and the carnival atmosphere Steve Nieve's keyboards create so well.

Except maybe for "T.K.O. (Boxing Day)," which supplants outright boogie for message, kernels of wit and wisdom run through all of Punch the Clock's 13 songs.

The themes continue to work out Costello's obsession with love and infidelity. The sense of indignation harbored in this singer, who still wears the skinny necktie, white socks and heavy black glasses of a 1960s-era square is never nastier than in the song "Charm School." It's all about the classic type meeting the soft-edged girl-from-the-charm-school type. And it's all drummer Pete Thomas' cymbals can do to portray the clash.

In "Everyday I Write the Book," Costello's lyrics are as tightly knit as the music. "I'm a man with a mission in two or three editions," he deadpans, on the discovery that his dreamboat has turned out to be a footnote. At song's end, the whole relationship is casually tossed off: "Even in a perfect world where everyone was equal / I'd still own the film rights and be working on the sequel."

"The Greatest Thing," the song from which Punch the Clock takes its title, happy-go-luckily bounces across the dark and the good sides of the force. "Punch the clock and in time you'll get pulled apart / If you're married on paper and not in your heart," he advises.

As for himself, and, who knows, maybe a lot of us working stiffs, "I punch the clock and it's OK / I know a girl who takes my breath away."


Lincoln Star, August 18, 1983

Mike Butler reviews Punch The Clock


1983-08-18 Lincoln Star page 18.jpg
Page scan.


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