Elvis Costello's songs have always shown a lot of 1960s R-B influence, but it's never been brought out to the forefront like it is on Punch the Clock. Elvis employs an R-B horn section and a team of two Jamaican women as backing vocalists on most of Punch the Clock, and, while the results aren't always successful, they're never dull.
Every Elvis Costello album is a mixed bag, and Punch the Clock is more mixed than most, but, again, as on all of his LP's, there are a few real gems. The standouts on this one are a minor pop masterpiece called "Everyday I Write the Book," ("In a perfect world where everyone is equal, I'd still own the film rights and be working on the sequel") and two brooding slow numbers, "Ship Building" and "Pills and Soap."
It's awfully hard to call Punch the Clock a better album than Ronstadt's or Joel's, but it is totally original and, more than anything else, it's an album willing to take risks — neither of which Ronstadt or Joel can claim.