Ottawa Citizen, August 12, 1983

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Punch The Clock

Elvis Costello and The Attractions

Evelyn Erskine

Elvis Costello has strayed far from the lean, angry music he stalked onto the scene with in the late '70s.

He is still good for an acerbic turn of phrase but he has learned to deal out more than raw bitterness and instead claws his way to the cause of the emotion.

As a vocalist, he has always had the instinct to apply the timely intonation which twists the knife his biting words imply. Here he adds to that, broadening to put more within his grasp and match the scope his songwriting has taken over the years.

With Punch The Clock, Costello takes on yet another musical vista to add to the range of genres he has intertwined into his music throughout his career. Punch The Clock employs orchestral instrumentation and female back-up singers.

Considering Costello's reputation for the bare-knuckle approach to rock, this turn seems out of character.

In the hands of an average composer it could have the disastrous effect of dampening his efforts with a lush blanket. But Costello integrates it skillfully using the string section for sweeping power and the horns as a wall of sound.

At no moment is the orchestra awkwardly glued on to a rock framework but instead works hand in hand as an integrated creative unit.

There is little doubt that Costello is a brilliant songwriter. He has the ability to progress without repetition, an attribute that is all too rare in pop music.


The Citizen, August 12, 1983

Evelyn Erskine reviews Punch The Clock.


1983-08-12 Ottawa Citizen clipping 01.jpg
Photo by Nick Knight.

Page scan.
1983-08-12 Ottawa Citizen page 51.jpg


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