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My Aim Is True

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Album Review

Elvis Costello was as much a pub rocker as he was a punk rocker and nowhere is that more evident than on his debut, My Aim Is True. It's not just that Clover, a San Franciscan rock outfit led by Huey Lewis (absent here), back him here, not the Attractions; it's that his sensibility is borrowed from the pile-driving rock & roll and folksy introspection of pub rockers like Brinsley Schwarz, adding touches of cult singer/songwriters like Randy Newman and David Ackles. Then, there's the infusion of pure nastiness and cynical humor, which is pure Costello. That blend of classicist sensibilities and cleverness make this collection of shiny roots rock a punk record — it informs his nervy performances and his prickly songs. Of all classic punk debuts, this remains perhaps the most idiosyncratic because it's not cathartic in sound, only in spirit. Which, of course, meant that it could play to a broader audience, and Linda Ronstadt did indeed cover the standout ballad "Alison." Still, there's no mistaking this for anything other than a punk record, and it's a terrific one at that, since even if he buries his singer/songwriter inclinations, they shine through as brightly as his cheerfully mean humor and immense musical skill; he sounds as comfortable with a '50s knockoff like "No Dancing" as he does on the reggae-inflected "Less Than Zero." Costello went on to more ambitious territory fairly quickly, but My Aim Is True is a phenomenal debut, capturing a songwriter and musician whose words were as rich and clever as his music. [Ryko/Demon's 1993 reissue contained several bonus tracks, including the country B-sides "Radio Sweetheart" and "Stranger in the House," plus demos of his first group, Flip City.]

Customer Reviews

One of the Greatest Debut Albums

On this on-line version, there's three great tracks missing (Alison, The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes, Watching the Detectives). Still, this remains a fabulous debut. I remember him belting some of these out on Granada Television, introduced by Tony Wilson, in the late 1970s. It was obvious then that Costello was a songwriter out of the ordinary. I don't like all of these, but there's enough good stuff on here to make most other rock musicians sick with envy.

Top Class Debut Album

Elvis went on to greater things, and the Americanised slant of the vocals can seem a little contrived in retrospect, but this debut album is bustling with energy, ideas, and great tunes. Remarkably consistent, there is not a bad track, and of course in "Alison" Elvis achieved classic status at a very early stage of his career. Hard to think of any tracks to leave out, so I would recommend you buy the whole lot.


Really enjoyed this album just some minor issues but a great debut album from Elvis.


Born: 25 August 1954 in Paddington, London, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

When Elvis Costello's first record was released in 1977, his bristling cynicism and anger linked him with the punk and new wave explosion. A cursory listen to My Aim Is True proves that the main connection that Costello had with the punks was his unbridled passion; he tore through rock's back pages taking whatever he wanted, as well as borrowing from country, Tin Pan Alley pop, reggae, and many other musical genres. Over his career, that musical eclecticism distinguished his records as much as his...
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