University of Cincinnati News Record, February 24, 1978

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Costello: this punk's bunk

David Montagno

I've got to admit, being terribly naive, that I really didn't quite know what to expect... Punk Rock and New Wave music are quite a novelty to me. After being raised on a steady diet of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, I was now going to be treated to the latest British import, Elvis Costello.

I was determined to make the effort to understand and appreciate this music that I've been hearing so much about. To get really involved I had even dressed up for the occasion with all of the necessary items... torn T-shirt, black leather boots and rusty razor-blade on the chain around my neck. Fortunately I was saved from acute embarrassment when informed by a friend that I was "overdressed." I was told that Elvis Costello was no "Punk" but "New Wave," which is apparently different, although I must confess the difference is still not clear to me.

Well, I sat in Bogart's and waited... and waited... until finally Elvis made his grand appearance. What a letdown! Here was a venomous Woody Allen look-alike in huge horn-rimmed glasses, angrily stalking the stage, casting stares and glares at the expectant audience. In fact, it turned out that nasty stares at the crowd played a very large part of Costello's act, along with the absurd antics with his microphone which he handled more skillfully than his guitar.

The music was angry and quite simple, similar to early 60's rock 'n' roll. The lyrics were also angry and expressed certain nihilistic attitudes, although they were, for the most part, unintelligible. Difficult guitar chords were not prominent in Costello's act which quite often deteriorated into a loud din of primeval noise. But the crowd cheered enthusiastically and yelled for even more, although I'm still not sure whether they were applauding the music, the microphone antics or the sheer arrogance of Costello, who incidentally, didn't see fit to return for an encore.


The News Record, February 24, 1978

David Montagno reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Monday, February 20, 1978, Bogart's, Cincinnati, OH.

Reader Ralph Knapp responds in a subsequent issue.


1978-02-24 University of Cincinnati News Record page 05 clipping 01.jpg

Elvis Costello

Ralph Knapp

1978-02-28 University of Cincinnati News Record page 04 clipping 01.jpg

To the Editor:

Having yet to make a contribution to the News Record myself, I am somewhat ashamed of this letter. Yet, I must rate the News Record's appraisal of Elvis Costello's Cincinnati appearance (Feb. 24) one of the sloppiest pieces of critical journalism I have ever read.

Yes, Costello's music is simple; it does sound like early 60's rock 'n' roll; and he does look like Woody Allen. Yes, there is a New Wave, and it lives in many of us who are tired of mass-media, Top 40 pap and are looking for a new musical direction — a more realistic direction.

It is a shame that this space is too small for me to recreate the message of his music. It is a shame that his words were "unintelligible." It is also a shame that, while some of us were learning the finer arts of literary, and musical, expression, you were immersed in the myriad teachings of the Led Zeppelin cult.

While admitting that you know nothing of the man, you insist, nevertheless, at drawing conclusions upon his genre. Woe be unto the critic who is ignorant of that which he reviews.

Costello is not a nilhilist. The personae he assumes is that of a beaten-down adolescent who has suddenly realized his own potential. He is not angry, rather, he is confused, while remaining open. He is honest, while assuming the air of toughness that has pushed him down for so long.

His aim is true; yours is way off.

Ralph Knapp

1978-02-24 University of Cincinnati News Record page 05.jpg
Page scan.


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