New Musical Express, July 23, 1977

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NME

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My Aim Is True

Elvis Costello

Roy Carr

It's better to have loved and lost and written a whole album on the agonising experience, than never to have loved at all and kept schtum about it.

Anyway, that's how Elvis Costello prefers to lay in on all your bleedin' hearts out there.

Honey! this definitely ain't no romance; more like sexual psychoanalysis set to a dozen superb juke joint anthems.

My Aim Is True isn't just the title track of Mr. Costello's auspicious album debut, but is indicative of a quirky line of vision which painfully — often to the point of total humiliation — examines the recurring traumas of love and other related adolescent dilemmas. Keeping a low emotional profile is one thing you can't accuse Costello of feigning.

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Try this for size. On "Pay It Back," EC delves into the problem of a first-hand personality crisis "Auntie Annie told me I could be somebody if I didn't let too much get in my way / And I tried so hard just to be myself but I kept fading away".

Though Costello engineers his lyrics through a '70s interpretation of '60s rhythm 'n' rock, he doesn't expound the familiar brand of 60 Minute Man Macho, but instead resigns himself to the unflattering role of cuckold.

Costello's affaires-du-coeur don't dissolve into stereotyped soft focus misty Martini sunsets, but blooded recrimination. Instead of verbally cuffing his lovers like The Stranglers, Costello persistently indulges his masochistic tendencies.

These range from a rousing rockabilly tale of flunking his first deflowering on "Mystery Dance", to plundering the Stones and getting D-minus as a stud in "Miracle Man" with such couplets as: "Why do you have to say that there's always someone else who can do it better than I can /But don't you think that I know that walking on the water won't make me a Miracle Man".

Much has been said about the influence Van Morrison has exercised over Bruce Springsteen; of both parties' sway over Phil Lynott; that Bob Seger, Nick Lowe, Graham Parker and Southside Johnny have copped some of their best licks from all three and how Elvis Costello fits in somewhere. Sure, there are tinges of all these artists prevalent in his approach, but whereas these performers celebrate either street fantasies or the joy of rock 'n' roll, Costello's songs spill over with emotional torture and melodrama.

His most impassioned showdown comes right as the very beginning of "Alison" — one of the most heart-rending tear-jerkers currently on releases: "Oh, it's so funny to be seeing you after so long girl, and with the way you look I can understand you were not impressed / I heard that you let that little friend of mine take off your party dress." I mean, you can't get more candid than that, and if that doesn't hit the spot then you're terminally insensitive.

I may have placed a great deal of emphasis on the lyrical content of this album, but only because it snuck-up on me from the midst of the hard-nosed brand of rock that Costello peddles.

Nick Lowe receives credit for production, but not so the musicians, who have enabled Elvis Costello to raise his album shoulder-high above most of this year's debut albums.

It takes only one glance at Costello and a couple of replays to realise that even if he may not be the predictable raw material from which teen dreams are made, he possesses more understanding of the stark reality of modern love than many vacuous song-smiths who assume they have their finger on the pulse of what goes on behind closed doors.

Costello must have taken a lot of emotional knocks to come up with such a powerful album, to the extent that one is reticent to guess what lengths he may have to go to enact a second installment. Anyone who's ever had their fragile heart well and truly broken will have little difficulty in relating to this man. Indeed, if anyone lays claim to the title, "Beautiful Loser," then surely it's Elvis Costello.

An album often of intense brilliance, which also confirms that should he ever give up songwriting, Elvis Costello can always answer reader's letters for Forum.

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New Musical Express, July 23, 1977


Roy Carr reviews My Aim Is True.


Teasers reports on EC & The Attractions' July 14 debut at Penzance.


Includes ads for gigs July 26, Dingwalls and July 27, Hope And Anchor.


Also includes parts 1 and 2 of a six-part, three-publication ad campaign for My Aim Is True. (Parts 3 and 4 ran in Melody Maker; parts 5 and 6 ran in Sounds.)

Images

1977-07-23 New Musical Express page 16 advertisement.jpg 1977-07-23 New Musical Express page 17 advertisement.jpg
Double page spread for My Aim Is True.


Elvis Costello


Teasers

1977-07-23 New Musical Express page 51 clipping 01.jpg

Secret Elvis Costello West Country gigs last weekend met with much acclaim. In Penzance a holidaymaker called Captain Sensible had to be restrained from leaping up onto the stage to "jam." He was restrained by Stiff employees because, they felt, he was unfamiliar with Costello's material. Would this really have made any difference, T-Zers wonders?...

Nick Lowe, who is said to have something in the region of 50 tracks "in the can" for his first album, is finally putting a band together and will, therefore, not be playing with Dave Edmunds for many more moons...



Ad for Hope And Anchor.
1977-07-23 New Musical Express page 4x advertisement.jpg


Ad for Dingwalls.
1977-07-23 New Musical Express page 42 advertisement.jpg


1977-07-23 New Musical Express cover.jpg 1977-07-23 New Musical Express photo 01.jpg
Cover and photo.

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