Elvis Costello was introduced recently in these pages and enthusiastically acclaimed as one of the most distinctive and refreshing young performers to have sauntered out of the woodshed for some considerable time.
The recorded evidence to justify the hyperbole — and convince even the most cynical and suspicious minds of El's immense potential — will be on the racks from July 22.
I'd like to see it on the chart within the week, please. In fact, My Aim Is True could, given the opportunity and exposure, rocket with ease to national prominence: the collection contains enough potential hit singles to stock a bloody jukebox, believe me.
Two of the cuts, "Less Than Zero" and "Alison," have, of course, already been issued as 45s and conveniently suggest the scope of Costello's writing and provide musical reference points for the uninitiated. Elvis, like his contemporary. Graham Parker, and his producer, Nick Lowe (who's recorded El with sympathy, and an affinity for the composer's ideals), has a rare talent for seizing an image, an idea or a musical style and, however familiar its original shape, creating out of it something quite powerfully individual.
"Less Than Zero" is a vivid reflection of Elvis' affection and empathy with Sixties' r&b; simultaneously, the song, delivered by the author with swaggering confidence over snarling guitars and crashing cymbal splashes, introduces, through its colourful evocation of suburban perversions and wry cynicism, the mordant, Ortonesque humour that characterises several of the songs included here. "Alison," by comparison, is a classically crafted pop song enhanced by stylish guitar inflections and Elvis' restrained vocal passion. The song also reflects Costello's other principal preoccupation as a writer: it's centred, like so many of the songs in this collection, around the termination of a relationship (a theme Elvis views, with authentic insight, from a variety of perspectives).
Elsewhere, Elvis deals more explicitly with the emotional violence that attends the disintegration of love affairs, and with the frustrations and occasional humiliations of early adolescent love and sexual encounters. The fierce "Miracle Man," for instance, has the song's protagonist admitting to his sexual inadequacy with an impassioned and convincing concern and painful, authenticity.
The theme of rejection is examined on the irresistible "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes" (probably my favourite track on the album), but here the mood is more extrovert, with sparkling guitar chords crashing over vigorous piano, with Elvis providing one of the most exhilarating vocal performances on the entire record, with a vibrant back-up chorus supplying additional colour. This song's effervescence is challenged only by the magnificent "Mystery Dance," a perfectly realised homage to Fifties rock and roll with Elvis' vocal drenched in greasy echo, which presents a concise account of a guy's first sexual adventure and its disastrous development.
My Aim Is True is already a personal favourite — I can think of only a few albums released this year that rival its general excellence — and I can only hope its delights will be universally recognised. Hell, you can dance to it, swoon to it, sing along with it, laugh and cry with it, smooch and romance to it. And, to paraphrase Elvis Costello's "Welcome To The Working Week," I think it might thrill you, I know it won't kill you. Buy-buy.