Ohio State Lantern, September 27, 1983

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Costello punches in with album

Eric D. Wygle


Rock music has seen several performers come and go that were deemed "angry young men." People like Johnny Rotten and Graham Parker immediately come to mind.

These two and rock's other angry young men have all made the music and portrayed the public image with varying degrees of success, but none have done it as well as a certain Englishman with knock knees, a devilish tongue, and black horn-rimmed glasses whose name is Declan McManus but who calls himself Elvis Costello.

Costello took the music world by storm in 1977 with his first release, My Aim Is True. His biting sarcasm and bouncing alliteration made him an immediate favorite of the critics.

Some liked Costello and My Aim Is True so much they voted it the 1977 album of the year.

Costello's second release, This Year's Model, established him as having more than just a flash of musical brilliance and solidified his angry young man image with songs like "Radio, Radio" and "Lipstick Vogue."

Costello's image was further developed by things he did both offstage and out of the studio.

In 1979 he found himself amid much controversy for a highly publicized bout with members of the Stephen Stills band in which he made several racial slurs about Ray Charles and James Brown. The incident took place at the Columbus Agora.

Despite all that, he was still considered by many critics to be the best songwriter in the business but he had neither a hit album nor single after eight records.

Costello finally hit paydirt with his 1982 release, Imperial Bedroom, an album destined to be a classic. His writing has never been better and his band, the Attractions, were nothing short of remarkable on the album.

His newest release, Punch The Clock, is not as strong as its predecessor but seems to be a logical progression for the band.

This should be the album that will break Costello and the Attractions on the charts and give the group the hit they have waited so long for and deserve.

For Punch The Clock, Costello has added a four-man horn section called the TKO Horns and two female background vocalists to complement the Attractions. The members of the Attractions are keyboard player Steve Nieve, drummer Pete Thomas, and bass player Bruce Thomas.

Although the thought of these additions might make some Costello fanatics cringe they actually work well with the material on the album.

The current single "Everyday I Write the Book" is classic Costello and should give the Police's "Every Breath You Take" a run for pop single of the year.

Costello shows off his ability to create catchy hooks on the song with lines like "When your dreamboat turns out to be a footnote / I'm a man with a mission in two or three editions."

Fans of Costello's "angry young man" stance will not be disappointed either as he's still up to his old antics of criticizing the government, bad lovers, and even himself.

On "Pills and Soap," a protest of the English involvement in the Falklands, he slams the government by saying "They come from lovely people with a hardline in hypocrisy / There are ashtrays of emotion for the fag ends of the aristocracy."

In "Love Went Mad" he wishes his lost lover "luck with a capital 'F.'"

Costello even apologizes for one of his own faults on "Mouth Almighty" and admits "I know I've got my faults / Among them I can't control my tongue."

The album's finest moment comes on the final song of side one, "Shipbuilding." It is another attack on the English involvement in the Falklands that is a ballad in the same vein as Almost Blue from Imperial Bedroom.

The tinkling piano of Steve Nieve and trumpet of Chet Baker combine with some of Costello's finest singing and writing on the album to create the record's best cut.

This album proves that Costello can be soft, even slightly commercial, and still be the angry young man who claimed early in his career that he would not be around to see his artistic demise.


The Lantern, September 27, 1983

Eric D. Wygle reviews Punch The Clock.


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Page scan.


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