Record Machine: My Aim is True by Elvis Costello

My Aim is True is a great album, but yes, I did buy it because it’s the one with “Alison.”

Elvis Costello - My Aim is True (cover)

Elvis Costello is one of those musicians whom I enjoy when I hear his music, but I don’t usually go out of my way to listen to him. I like that he’s collaborated with Burt Bacharach — including that cameo in the second Austin Powers movie, The Spy Who Shagged Me — but I don’t know a lot about him. In the past, he has disparaged Noel Gallagher’s songwriting capabilities, so perhaps that’s why I keep him at a distance. We know my feelings on Noel are deep and true, so although I am used to people slagging Oasis, I become somewhat grumpy towards other musicians who participate. Unfair? Sure, but I’m not always reasonable.

Still, I really like My Aim is True. Released in 1977, it sounds ahead of its time — not modern by today’s standards, but it gives a glimpse of how pop music might progress in the early-to-mid ’80s.I know that sounds a bit funny considering much of it is awash with 1950s-retro, but Elvis Costello is hardly the only ’70s and ’80s musician to ride that wave of nostalgia (see also: Stray Cats, who formed in 1979).

The album was recorded in 1976 in approximately twenty-four hours, which seems impressive, but I suppose if you’ve been practicing the material a ton ahead of time, it’s easier to be efficient once you make it into the studio. You pay for those hours, after all. This was before he had the Attractions as his backing band, this time working with a group called Clover.

Though “Alison” is my favorite song on the album, it sounds quite unlike the rest. Many of the other songs have the echo-y, almost lo-fi quality one would expect when recording on a budget. I’m more partial to Side One, with the exception of “Watching the Detectives,” which I don’t really like. Apparently, the UK printing of the album didn’t have the song, and I wish that was the copy I found.

If I had to pick another favorite, I quite enjoy “No Dancing.”

When it comes down to it, I think I respect Elvis Costello’s influence more than I am a big fan of his music. I like his music, but it’s never been love. That’s not to say I don’t find him valuable or that other people shouldn’t love what he does — definitely not. It’s just never going to be head-over-heels for me, and that’s okay.

Elvis Costello - My Aim is True (back cover)Side One

  • Welcome to the Working Week
  • Miracle Man
  • No Dancing
  • Blame It on Cain
  • Alison
  • Sneaky Feelings
  • Watching The Detectives

Side Two

  • (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
  • Less Than Zero
  • Mystery Dance
  • Pay It Back
  • I’m Not Angry
  • Waiting for the End of the World

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Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

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