Monday, February 1, 2010

Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True

Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True
Published 1977

First off, thanks to Jake Crabbs, who actually didn't request this album, but is the person I most identify this album with. 

Jake Crabbs and I are somewhat contentious people.  We will both argue for hours on end about some of the stupidest, weirdest stuff that you have ever seen.  I can remember us arguing with others a great deal, because when we're both on the same side, it's like a tour de force of bullshit and facts coming together like a hurricane of nonsensical crazytude.  Which is why, late one night, when we were discussing music at that magical address, 73 MD Ave, we argued at someone for an hour or two that Elvis Costello is the greatest singer songwriter in history.  

The weird thing is, I think we both actually believe it.  I know I do.  Elvis Costello is excellent.  It's almost too easy to like the guy.  He loves country, blues, rock and roll, and was once known as the "angry young man."  He has a sense of humor about himself.  He appeared as himself in Stephen Colbert's Christmas special.  His first stage name was Napolean Dynamite, which might actually be the best joke in that movie, by far.  (Actually, I think I could make the case that that was the only joke in the movie, and the rest of the movie was just lines repeated in funny voices without any connection to a plot or structure, and that that movie was terrible and should not be seen by human beings, but I digress.)  He's just your normal average Declan Patrick MacManus.  

Now I know, I need to defend my position that he is the best singer songwriter.  So let's listen to a little My Aim is True.  First off, Welcome to the Working Week.  The shortest song on the album, it actually shows a bunch of different sides.  It starts off slow, gets rolling, and ends before you can get used to it.  There are bands that like to noodle around and try to figure some new stuff out while they are playing.  This is not one of those bands.  These songs are tight, whittled from chunks of pure awesome.  The songs are poppy and quick.  I dare you not to be entranced by them, tapping your toes and being psyched to be listening to them.

As we move into the next song, Miracle Man, I want to talk about Mr. Costello's voice.  The man can sing, but the thing that I like most about his voice, is that you know exactly who the hell he is when he sings the first note.  If you're listening along, every time he starts the chorus, listen to that word 'Why'.  He puts feeling, and a little bit of a wail into it. The man can sing a song.  He's just got this talent for making you really hear his voice.  It's a little difficult to describe how he sounds.

On the other side of the coin, considering the songwriter side, this record is just a collection of hits. Seriously.  The track list is just a list of classic rock songs.  I personally have the Rycodisk re-release, so there are a bunch of demos, and a couple "bonus tracks" that are on every CD version that I have found.  But just on the original cut of the record are "Blame it on Cain", "Allison", "Miracle Man", "(The Angels Want to Wear My) Red Shoes", "Mystery Dance" and "Waiting for the End of the World".  Oh and then on the bonus tracks, you have "Watching the Detectives", "Radio Sweetheart", "Stranger in the House" and "Imagination (Is a Powerful Deceiver)".  These are essential, in my mind, for any person who likes music.  The whole album, front to back, is original, interesting, and engrossing.  And Mr. Costello wrote every one of the tracks.

This is the start of one of the craziest careers in the music business, but it is an incredibly mature record.  It doesn't sound like stuff that was just fluffed off to start up the first album of a new artist, but a well composed, put together bunch of songs.  The number of potential singles alone on this album is staggering.  If released today, this would be a crossover hit.  He'd be at the top of the list of the country and rock and pop charts.  As he should be. Because he's Elvis fucking Costello.

The other thing that is great about this version of the record is that you can actually hear some of the Demo versions of the songs, and some other songs that weren't included on the record.  It's a real pleasure to hear some of the proto-songs that he puts on the track.  Hearing his voice in one ear, and the guitar in the other, it's a really stripped down experience.  This collection is worth the price of admission alone, leaving the classic album that you get too.

So to wrap up, this is an essential album, a classic that everyone should hear.  It's something that will appeal to a lot of people, and so I would insist that you spread the gospel, and get other people to listen to it.  

Now, let's do a little housecleaning.  I know that I have been pretty inconsistent with updating, so I'm going to attempt to correct that.  I have scheduled out the next couple of weeks of album projects.  They're a little heavy on my own picks, because I've found that it takes a lot more to write about an album that I have never heard before, but I'm attempting to keep two to three picks from other people per week.  I think I'm being a little ambitious with my schedule, but if I can get a little backlog going, it'll be really easy to keep to.  What does this mean for you?  1. I'll be plaguing you with more link spam on facebook,  2.  That (hopefully) you'll get 4-5 entries a week, and 3.  I'm going to need a lot more suggestions for albums.  

Thanks again Jake for being crazy with me.
I'm going to walk right up to heaven, dodging lightning rods,

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