Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True (1977)

Considered by many to be one of the more impressive debuts in pop history, “My Aim Is True” was the stunning first up effort from Declan MacManus a.k.a Elvis Costello. Ironically Costello was still working a day job as a data entry clerk during the recording of this album, and in fact he ended up having to call in sick to his day job in order to rehearse and record the album. It would not be until after the release of the first two singles that he would be asked by his record label to become a full time professional musician, a move he would not hesitate in doing.

Released during the height of British punk in 1977, as a new artist Costello would be labelled punk by the press and put in that category alongside the likes of The Sex Pistols despite the fact that stylistically Costello was not punk. Stylistically the music on this album is very much closer to new wave/pub rock and has a strong 1950s and 1960s influence going through it. On the album cover, Costello appears to look like Buddy Holly with those rather large Holly like glasses, and in many ways the Holly influence translates to the music on the album with 1950s rock and roll making its presence felt on tracks like “Pay It Back” and “Blame It on Cain”. Costello as an artist was also heavily influenced by the 1960s and you can hear that influence strongly throughout the album. “No Dancing” has a Ronettes/Wall of Sound feel to it, while the way in which Costello combined strong melodies with prominent rock and roll backing tracks on this album led some in the music press to label his sound as being power pop. The two best known songs on the album are also two of Costello’s finest, and fit nicely amongst the more rock and roll/up-tempo tracks. “Alison” is a beautiful pop ballad which is unlike anything else on the record, while “Watching the Detectives” has more of a new wave feel to it with an underlying reggae sound.

There are so many good tracks on this album that it becomes impossible to pick any standouts. Costello got it so right on this first up release that many still pick it as one of his best albums and one of the best albums of all time, including Pitchfork that declared it number 37 out of the top 100 albums of the 1970s. This was a budding musician going out on his own. He was not really part of any movement in that he was no punk, and he was not a relic left over from the 1960s. He was his own man (the now ex-data entry clerk) with his own sound and influences, and he did it good, so, so good.
– Sam

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