For the depressing seventies, Elvis may still be the one.
The snarling 23-year-old Britisher may be the perfect person to shake an ennui-filled decade back to life.
Elvis Costello has been massed in with the group conveniently known as the New Wave. What Costello shares with most groups in this category is an insistence to a return to rock and roll in a purer form than the synthesized syrup doled out by the top ten bands. But Costello goes beyond most New Wavers by combining bright and strong rock with interesting lyrics — cynical, dark, surrealistic and often witty.
With his three-piece band (unfairly unnamed), Costello's music is pre-electronic perfection; two electric guitars, a bass and drums. But using a minimum of instruments does not mean three-chord monotony, for the music and rhythms are varied and inventive. The music of each song sets up a mood, creates a concise atmosphere within which the words tell the story.
Costello's voice is rasping and throaty, perfect for his tales of treachery, revenge and disillusionment. For example, "Watching the Detectives," the hypnotic cut which ends the first side, starts with ominous guitar chords reminiscent of sixties spy shows, and snakes along through lyrics like "she's filing her nails while they're dragging the lake."
Other themes which Costello covers are adolescent frustration: "Both of us were willing but we didn't know how to do it", ("Mystery Dance"), and "I said I'm so happy I could die, she said drop dead, then left with another guy" ("Red Shoes"); revenge for this frustration, and an inevitable cynicism about the state of the world in general. But these dark lyrics are often contrasted with the music, which is bright and brisk. For instance, Costello sings that "everything means less than zero," but follows this phrase with a shoo-bop chorus of "Heeeey, Raa-ee".
It is the intelligent and angry lyrics, combined with the in-ventive and punchy music which makes Elvis' Aim so true.