In 1977, as disco was declining as America's preferred Top 40 and punk was emerging from the underground, a skinny, unlikely Elvis Costello was crawling onto the music scene and turning heads with his blend of punk attitude and pop aesthetics. With his huge black-framed glasses and awkward name, Costello was far from anything resembling a rockstar. However, what he did have was My Aim Is True, an amazing debut album full of rock n' roll emotion, and a wit in his lyrics that could make people take notice. He quickly made a name for himself by writing songs about political and corporate hand-holding, and by showing public acts of rebellion, more specifically, the infamous stint during his performance on Saturday Night Live which caused him to be banned from ever performing on the show again. Costello never held to boundaries, and that is something that has stayed consistent throughout his almost thirty year career.
Over those thirty years, he has rocked out with the punk/new wave movement, bathed in funk, dabbed in folk, cut records with Burt Bacharach, and, more recently, composed for the London Symphony Orchestra. All the while, he has managed to do everything his way. On Costello's newest release, The Delivery Man, he emerges as a man who knows where he's been, what he's doing, and where he's going. The album is filled with soul, and steeped in rhythm and blues. It plays as Elvis's ode to the South, the music of his influences. The album exudes rock n' roll, and Elvis and his band The Imposters, play it with the skill and confidence of veterans.
There is a running theme of impassivity throughout the album, and "Button My Lip" displays this to full effect. The general plot for how the song should be laid out and how the verse and chorus should be sung all gets put to the side on the album's rocking opener. The song busts out crooked and jittery, starting and stopping in odd times and places, placing ties to the soaked up style of Louisiana. On tracks such as "Country Darkness" and "The Scarlet Tide," Costello slows down the pace, calming down the energy and bringing out a mood. With vocal assistance from Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris, the album also achieves a vocal level that Elvis would be unable to achieve alone. Harris's duet on "Nothing Clings Like Ivy" brings out an astounding beauty and melody amongst such an unapologetic album. However, it are the quiet moments that are some of the record's best. "Heart Shaped Bruise" and "Needle Time" offer up introspection and reservation while never lacking Costello's power.
That is another quality of Elvis's that always stays consistent. He may slow down the pace, but the Rock 'n' Roll spirit and soul can always shine through.