The New Wave of Rock has crashed on American shores and withdrawn, leaving a beach scattered with new artists. For the most part, the beach is covered with such trash and driftwood as The Sex Pistols. However, an extensive search will reveal a conch or two which has something to offer musically.
Elvis Costello is one of the New Wave who has something to say and a way to say it. And, as if this wasn't enough, he isn't even repugnant about it.
This is not to say that he is the average rock musician. His appearance is that of someone who has been plucked out of the 50's. His glasses were last seen on Roy Orbison, his jeans are cuffed, and his hair is unreal. Even his name is different. Elvis is from the first name of his favorite rock star and Costello is his mother's maiden name. His real name is Declan Patrick McManus.
As much as he seems to have going against him, Costello has one thing going for him. That one thing is his first album, My Aim Is True. On this album Costello displays his talents as a singer and songwriter. His voice resembles a blend between Springsteen's and Southside Johnny's; his lyrics are something totally different.
At first the lyrics seem pessimistic. Nothing happens the way Costello wants it to happen. As he says in "Red Shoes", "I said, 'I'm so happy I could die.' She said, 'Drop dead,' and left with another guy."
Closer listening reveals Costello's acceptance of the inevitability of such things. So he does what he can with them: again from "Red Shoes", "I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be amused." The message is the same for most of the other songs, but Costello illustrates it in different ways. In "Less Than Zero" he uses the life of Lee Harvey Oswald. In "Watching the Detectives" he deals with a young man's attempts to get the attention of his girlfriend, who is watching a detective show.
Costello's musical style is from the same time as his clothes. Although the music is not blatantly 50's, every song has borrowed something from that era. "Mystery Dance," another song, would have fit right in with "Jailhouse Rock."
My Aim Is True is filled with short songs and the "gut emotion" which is Costello's style. Unfortunately, it contains little. else in the sway of printed lyrics and other niceties such as band information.