Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True is maybe the best album I have in my vinyl collection. This is some claim, as I have some seriously great records in there, but this is true gold. I was inspired to dig it out again after watching (via Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands) Elvis' first TV appearance, and it reminded me just how stunning a track Alison is, and therefore this post is dedicated to the album, and more specifically the song.
Welcome To The Working Week almost falls over itself in it's rush sometimes but behind the bluster is a sentiment more accurate - and as it's EC, more personal to every listener - than could be imagined in such a short track. It's just the beginning, because the album is full of them - every track a winner, a searing insight into your actual life without a hint of the emotionally overwraught, or whining or crying. The punk-pop backing is in reality small-town soul, a sound born not so much at frustration at what one doesn't have (like Elvis' peers) but a solid resolution to do what you can with what you have.
In the case of My Aim Is True, what you have is absolutely traditionally constructed and performed songs. But the main difference between this and a million others is that each simple song is eternally pertinent and always hits the spot. Whether it's the sound of the record, a throwback to the days when pop was pop and could be about this sort of thing without needing to sound arch; whether it's the we've all been there of "Oh, I said "I'm so happy, I could die."She said "Drop dead," then left with another guy." ((The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes); maybe it's the exasperated Miracle Man.
Maybe it's the way everything stops on the word Stop, in Alison. Maybe it's in the subtle, but quite beautiful electric guitar solos in the same song (seen to heartstopping effect in the video, the solo electric putting even Billy Bragg in his place). Maybe it's the wistful, bittersweet, disappointed lyrics. Maybe it's the fact that despite being almost thirty years old, this song retains every bit as much importance and relevance to any listener, to anyone who's been in love, to anyone that doesn't have a cold, hard stone for their heart. Maybe it's the fact that in this intimate demolition of long-held feelings, Costello poured out more indignation, more grief, more beauty and more spite than any of his punk peers could muster, and marshalled it not to an inept four to the floor, but to a balladic soul piece that Stax would have killed for. Maybe his aim really was true.
Elvis Costello - Alison
Elvis Costello - Mystery Dance (live at the El Mocambo, 3/6/1978)
Elvis Costello - Blame It On Cain (acoustic "honky tonk" version)
Artist: Elvis Costello
Recommended: My Aim Is True
Label: Stiff Records
More: Hype Machine; elbo.ws
Tags: Elvis Costello; My Aim Is True; Alison; live; acoustic