Novus, September 1983

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Punch The Clock

Elvis Costello & the Attractions

Gary Chun

Elvis Costello certainly doesn't rest on his laurels. With every succeeding record, E.C. and the band have worked out intelligent ways to bring together Costello's incisive wordplay and the band's driving energy to each song's advantage. There has been the occasional diversion, like the band's foray into Nashville to record Almost Blue, but since that album's release, country music has been incorporated into the group s sound, along with soul, rock and even the musical theatre.

All these elements have coalesced into an exciting collection of songs that make Clock the most tuneful of Elvis' records since his early "New Wave" material. A large part of that must be attributed to producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, who have regularly worked with Madness, a band noted for its irrepressible melodies. The two have helped invigorate Costello's compositions by augmenting the band with a four-piece horn section and two female backup vocalists. Raveups like "Let Them All Talk" and "The World and His Wife" take on the character of an exciting soul revue, what with the TKO horns and the chorus pushing Costello and the band.

The Attractions continue to prove themselves the perfect foils for Elvis. Keyboardist Steve Nieve is especially good on songs like "Love Went Mad" and his pointed accompaniment fills out a jaunty workout like "The Invisible Man." When combined with the infallible work of drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Bruce Thomas, this is a tough act to improve on after working together about five years running now.

There are two songs of note that show how Elvis Costello continues to expand his horizons as a songwriter; both songs being acerbic attacks on British nationalism. "Pills and Soap" is a "re-modelled" tune originally released as a single on a U.K. independent label that Costello recorded under the pseudonym of The Imposter. It tells how the financial crisis Great Britain is undergoing is being covered over by the media's attention to the trivial affairs of "Lord and Lady Muck" (Prince Charles and Lady Di, I presume). The song's spare but harsh sound is in stark contrast to the exquisite music of "Shipbuilding," a song about the Falklands fiasco first covered by Robert Wyatt on a fine Rough Trade single. The addition of the melancholy trumpet of jazz great Chet Baker was a masterstroke and is just one of the many qualities found on Clock that validates the former Duncan McManus' finely written work.


Novus, September 1983

Gary Chun reviews Punch The Clock.


1983-09-00 Novus page 06 clipping composite.jpg
Clipping composite.

1983-09-00 Novus cover.jpg 1983-09-00 Novus page 06.jpg
Cover and page scan.


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