Review Summary: An album that bridges two time periods of music together, a pop masterpiece.
1977 could be considered one of the biggest years in music. With groundbreaking albums from The Ramones, The Clash, Wire, Television, and so many others, the punk movement began to breathe in 1977. Important 80s punk bands like Black Flag and X formed. Disco found its last chance with Saturday Night Fever and The Bee Gees. Still, as new movements formed, old movements died out. Elvis Presley died on August 16, Led Zeppelin gave their farewell concert, members of Lynyrd Skynyrd died in a plane crash, and Alice Cooper went into rehab. It is in this transition period we find the nerdy-looking Elvis Costello, grinning in an almost sarcastic manner and showing off his guitar on the cover of My Aim Is True
. Aside from being a pop masterpiece, My Aim Is True
successfully bridges the gap between old and new, tired and fresh. He possesses the anger of a punk but the musicianship, sensibility, and lyrical brilliance of intimate singer-songwriters.
“Welcome to the Working Week” opens the album perfectly, a short statement full of the jarring guitar chords and simplicity that made classic punk, as well as that surprisingly deep, powerful voice that no one expected out of Costello. Recorded as Costello skipped his job with sick days, he sings about his hatred for the 9-5 job. Everyone can understand his point of view, and its earnest, humble message makes the song all the more classic. While the songs of that style put him on par with his contemporaries, it is his other styles that make My Aim Is True stand out as more than just another punk album. “Alison”, easily the best song on the album and possibly Costello’s best song ever, takes the opposite approach as a slow, soulful ballad. With beautiful lead guitar from John McFee of backing band Clover, who later went to form Huey Lewis and the News, Costello finds a perfect musical setting behind him with lush organ setting the chord structure. The famous lyrics “Alison, I know this world is killing you/Oh, Alison, my aim is true”, interpreted either as a bittersweet love call or intimation towards murder might be the best lyrics on the album.
Between these two extremes are perfectly crafted pop songs. “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” features, once again, excellent guitar work and brilliant lyrics from Elvis. The repeated “red shoes, the angels wanna wear my red shoes” will undoubtedly get stuck in your head. Meanwhile, the groove-based “Waiting for the End of the World”, an obvious throwback to the bluesier days of rock, shows off the production style of Nick Lowe, showing his versatility in making any style sound good. “Watching the Detectives” puts a reggae spin on the music, and while it isn’t as much of a closer as the original “Waiting for the End of the World” was, it still proves the album’s brilliance of bridging many different styles. “Miracle Man” features some creative drumming with excellent cymbal accents and more of Costello’s beta male lyrics. All in all, every song possesses something special and makes the album stand out even among the countless classic albums of that year. My Aim Is True
is the result of 6 years of playing, failing, and living. Costello is angry on the album, but he's also sensible and smart.