Frank Costello is a name with a nice ring to it. So is Elvis Presley.
Oddly enough, once you get used to it, so is Elvis Costello.
Costello is a 22-year-old Englishman whose new album, My Aim Is True (Columbia), is a very impressive debut. He's not a new wave type or the punk rocker the New York critics are still trying to sell the rest of us on. He's a genuine throwback, an aberration with talent.
After all, anybody who carries Elvis' name, looks like Buddy Holly and sounds like Gene Vincent has to warm a special place in the hearts of those who love good ol' basic rock 'n' roll.
Costello's album is basic. It sounds like it was recorded on a cassette deck in a high school gym with the intent of having it sound good on the worst car radio in creation. It also sounds quite good and exactly right. Its similar in its marvelously appropriate cheapness to the sound of Dave Edmunds' albums of old songs.
The subject matter of his songs is classic rock themes like romance and failed romance, subjects that go together in this art form like Ferrante and Teicher do in another one. They're done in a better-than-usual way, with images that work and an insight that rivals that of rockers with more intellectual pretensions.
He just doesn't give you some toe-tapping vision of a teenage dream like the less original types. You get the feeling that somebody actually thought about these songs; he didn't just reminisce. He's witty and sensitive simultaneously, a tough parlay.
The subject matter may be adolescent, but the treatment of it is not.
That's true even if the form of the songs is so reminiscent of classic rock. All of them are melodically fetching. All of them would get pretty good "fun to dance to" ratings on the old Bandstand reviews.