Ever since he pioneered the splay-footed, pigeon-toed, hatefully-bespectacled "Vengeful Nerd" look on his 1977 debut, My Aim Is True, Elvis Costello has enjoyed a kind of approbation rare in British pop music. Costello has never aspired to plug the ozone layer, and could never be Fergie's favourite pop star. But apart, perhaps, from Ray Davies, nobody in this septic isle has received so much acclaim purely as a songwriter.
Costello-watchers often reach for Bob Dylan as the nearest yardstick. "Those songs about Thatcher and Craig and Bentley ["Tramp The Dirt Down" and "Let Him Dangle"] are a kind of examination of what's happening in England through pop music," reflects Colin McCabe, rogue professor of literature and currently head of research at the British Film Institute.