My Aim Is True, the rollicking debut that launched Elvis Costello’s career, is humorous, rebellious, and infinitely enjoyable. This month marks its 40-year anniversary, which is astonishing given how good it still sounds. The songwriting reeks of the ‘70s — wonderfully so — but remains as charming and engaging as ever. There is a remarkable degree of confidence that you wouldn’t usually expect from a debut, which is not only testament to Costello’s immense musical capabilities, but also his cheerfully bitter personality. This is a punk record, after all.
Costello’s persistent dissatisfaction translates into a raw, creative energy that defines My Aim Is True and makes it stand out from similar records of its time. It can often feel like the record is consecutively hurling songs at the listener like some sort of musical showcase, and the material is rich enough to make it work. There’s a strange sense of cohesion to the rushed approach, and the blunt production only deepens the tide.
There are standouts across the entire record, and a new favourite can emerge with each listen. That said, “Less Than Zero” still stands as one of Costello’s finest tracks, whilst “I’m Not Angry” rocks harder than most modern guitar bands. There’s never a dull moment amongst the sarcasm. My Aim Is True is a great record that delivers passion and intellect in equal measure. Forever a winning combination.
8 out of 10
I love debuts like this. Earnest and goofy, My Aim Is True has a fresh-faced quality that leaves you feeling like you’re listening to a remarkable series of demos, which isn’t that far from the truth, really. Under Nick Lowe’s watch, the album’s quickshot recording (six four-hour sessions) translates into a deeply authentic feel, as if the songs are being played for the first time.
The informal tone of My Aim Is True’s production is well suited to the music. Songs sound young and light, without baggage. It’s almost enough to make one feel incredulous. Where’s the grit? The sleaze? Donned their shades and jigged and jived out of sight, apparently. It makes for a swell ‘ol time, buddies and pals, though with acutely nerdy undertones. “Mystery Dance” is more Rocky Horror Show than it is rock ‘n roll, but I’m not complaining. There’s a focus and direction to the songwriting that can’t help but hold your attention. Every facet of “Blame It Of Cain” is cool, a knack which rings true for the entire record. The slower, assured pace of “Less Than Zero” makes it a standout, as does its vocals. The guitar work throughout the record is a delight, resonant and playful. And the assurance of the drumming provides the perfect foil to Costello’s bounce.
I could go on, but your time would be better spent giving the album a spin. It’s a treat not quite like anything else. For sweetheart rock ‘n roll with thick-rimmed glasses and a slight overbite, look no further than My Aim Is True.
8 out of 10
I’m still quite amazed at how well Elvis Costello’s debut album has dodged the ravages of time. Turning 40 this year, My Aim Is True still sounds clean and confident, and does well at packing 12 well-defined tracks into a sub-40-minute tracklist.
Sitting alongside the output of the likes of Graham Coxon and Jarvis Cocker over the last decade, Costello’s debut is inconspicuous in the best possible way, and that highlights how big an influence he’s been to artists that have come after him. While there are moments that give away its age, a majority of tracks hide it well. Moments in “Less Than Zero” feel similar to a track from the turn of the century, while several tracks open like a track of the ‘90s. It makes for an ever-changing listen that rarely lets my attention slip.
You wouldn’t know this was Costello’s debut. With an impressive overall quality, and a cohesive structure despite the variance from track to track, this could easily have been an album from a more mature artist. My Aim Is True has been a joy to listen to and I’ll be happily returning to it in the coming weeks.
8 out of 10