George Starostin's Reviews



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Rich Bunnell <> (12.10.2000)

The '50s influence on this album is just a bit too obvious for me to enjoy it completely. Costello definitely peaked later, but I still enjoy most of the album. "Mystery Dance" can go to hell for all I care - who needs an utterly generic '50s rocker that sounds exactly like "Jailhouse Rock" when I could just listen to the real thing? "No Dancing" also rips off its vocal hook from some early Beatles song that I'm too lazy to figure out the name of. The rest of the stuff is very close to top-notch - "Watching The Detectives" is great white-guy reggae which manages to use cheesy synths entirely to its advantage, and "Less Than Zero" and "Welcome To The Working Week" are awesome, catchy retro-rock tunes. I especially like "Alison" - only Costello could make such a mannered song so wonderful. The album still only gets a low eight due to the aforementioned flaws and the undercooked production, plus, Costello's better stuff was yet to come.

Just to get it out before anybody else does, the "ordinary rockabilly band" Clover later added Huey Lewis to their ranks and became the infamously awful cheese-rock band Huey Lewis & The News. If a band's going to name a song "The Heart Of Rock & Roll," they should at least make it rock.

Ben Greenstein <> (17.10.2000)

Incredibly overrated. He hasn't really matured as a songwriter yet, and (although there are some really strong moments) the whole thing sounds like a fifties throwback/parody. This is the one point in his career where he sounds like a gimmick act - playing the name "Elvis" for all it's worth. "Waiting For The End" is hardly the best song - it's one of the worst offenders, sounding way too similar to a whole bunch of Kinks songs I could name. Not too much melody, either. "Alison," "Welcome To The Working Week," "Blame It On Cain," "Red Shoes," and "Less Than Zero" are all fantastic, though - it's just that the rest of the album makes them sound a lot less interesting then they are. I could give this one a 6/10.

Glenn Wiener <> (23.10.2000)

Very Auspicious debut. Combines fifties and new wave stylings quite perfectly. That 'Watching The Detectives' track is so sleazy sounding.....I Love it. 'Alison' goes to the under end of the spectrum with touching chords and lyrics. And two leadoff tracks just blend together so well that you know the rest of this recording is going to be special. I'm sure the bonus tracks are grrreat as well.

Jeff Blehar <> (25.10.2000)

I never thought My Aim Is True was that hot either, so I'm not surprised to see everyone else somewhat skeptical about it.  It IS far too "retro," something which by itself isn't necessarily a crime but, when combined with a dearth of inspired melodies (unlike punk, one of Costello's chief appeals WAS his melodicism) and inevitable comparisons with what he'd being doing to the next five years, makes it suffer badly.

All of this is griping, however, since my problems with this album are extremely relative.  "Welcome To The Working Week" begins the series of classic album-kickoffs Costello would bring us, and as always the man just has a way with a couplet.  (My favorite?  From "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes": "I said 'I'm so happy I could die'/She said 'Drop dead!' and left with another guy.")  The star-turns are all classics ("Red Shoes," the brilliant "Less Than Zero," "Watching The Detectives," and the self-obsessed "Alison") and among the lesser tracks everyone has different personal picks.  Mine are "Miracle Man" and "No Dancing" (with a great middle eight).  And I'm the only person in the world who really likes Elvis Costello's voice, it seems.  Anyway, I'd throw a 7/10 at this, but I wouldn't expect it to stick.

<> (27.02.2001)

[Clover] - They are now knowed as Huey Lewis & The News ! You will say that, like Bruce Springsteen, it's for US working class, but they have done some great album since 1988 (influence of Bruce Hornsby perharps) and their music is always great.

Didier Dumonteil <> (22.03.2001)

Considering the magnificent opus that followed (This year's model,Armed forces,Get Happy,Imperial bedroom),this debut sounds now like a demo.The voice is already here but the production is thin,mean and don't do the best songs justice.Anyway EC has not yet reached maturity and his songwriting lacks strong and subtle melodies -that will appear soon after.Good tracks:welcome to the working week,No dancing,Alison,Mystery dance.The bonus tracks don't add anything substantial:odds and sodds best describe them.

Steve Potocin <> (03.01.2003)

Quick memo to Rich Bunnell [See1st review] Huey Lewis was in Clover a full year , and sang on their 1st single 'Chicken Funk', before the band minus Huey backed Costello on his debut album. The only member of Clover aside from Lewis who was in the News was keyboard player Sean Hopper. The rest of the News were from the band Soundhole, who were Van Morrisons touring band in the late 70s! Huey played harmonica on Nick Lowes great Labour of Lust album, and had Dave Edmunds record his 'Bad is Bad' on Edmunds Repeat When Necessary album,before returning to the states. Oh by the way My Aim is True, is so-so, the next 2 were the real shit!

Matt Byrd <> (27.06.2004)

Wow, this album took a bit to grow on me but when I did..... I couldn't get enough 'o' it.  I had had 'Alison' on some compilation disc for a good year before I appreciated that track....... I guess, what I am saying is that Costello had to have time to grow on me.  I really enjoyed this album it receives a 9.25/10 from me.


Rich Bunnell <> (14.10.2000)

Classic. When I first got into Costello I wasn't sure how good it was compared to the rest of his canon, but now I can conclude that this is an EASY ten. Every single song on the album is catchy, spiteful, energetic - even the slow songs, sort of! The best songs are the holy four that open the album (especially "The Beat"---- yow!), but it never really runs out of energy. I think that "You Belong To Me" and "Hand In Hand" are just as good as the other songs, however, even standing up against such recognized classics as "I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea" and "Lipstick Vogue"(the most pissed-off song on a pissed-off album). And then capping it all off is "Radio Radio," Costello's infamous "bite the hand that feeds you" rocker that he played on Saturday Night Live despite the complaints of prick extraordinaire Lorne Michaels. Costello made some albums roughly equal in quality later, but this is still very worthy of a ten.

Ben Greenstein <> (17.10.2000)

A defenite "score!" Although this one still kind of goes for the "retro" thing (hey, notice how Elvis' first three albums all correspond to different decades of rock + roll? If two of them didn't suck, that would be kind of cool!), excuse my long aside, the tunes are also a lot harder and edgier. Not quite "punk" (although "No Action" comes close), but very energetic, with agressive drumming and bassing and keyboarding rounding out that empty sound from the first one. Great melodies, too - there's but one piece of filler on the whole album, which is "Night Rally," no matter how much some rabid fans may stand up for it. But the rest is brilliant. That bassline in "Pump It Up"! The drumming on "Chelsea"! Man, I couldn't give this one less than a 10/10.

Glenn Wiener <> (23.10.2000)

This CD is pretty darn solid if not varied. I absolute adore the bass driven beat happy 'Pump It Up' and the lead off track 'No Actions' stands out as well. The opening drum solo on 'I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea' is outstanding. Heck the whole song is darn good but the drumming and even Elvis's vocals grab my attention. The organ sounds add a quirky effect throughout the disc which helped define the sound of new wave. Even the acoustic bonus numbers at the end add to the value fo the CD. A little lacking in the variety department but overall a winner.

Jeff Blehar <> (25.10.2000)

Yep, it's a T.F.C.  (Total F**kin' Classic, that is.)  I don't think it's the best album in Costello's canon, but it sure is the angriest, and the pure venom of these songs is a sight to hold indeed.  You talk about the punk movement being all hate and anger?  Well I have heard few lines more bitter and hateful than "sometimes I think love is just like a tumor/you've got to cut it--OUT."  It's a bit much to constantly harp on all the spite and bile pouring out of this album, however; if it wasn't backed up with some of the tightest, most electrified playing to come out of the UK in the second half of the 70's, it'd be unbearable.  This is the album where the Attractions made their name as one of the finest backing combos in pop history.  These songs CRACKLE, they snap and twist in the air like live wires, charged with pure tension.  If I may be allowed to mix my metaphors, they also strain their leash, biting and snapping away in frustrated anger.  The ensemble work on "No Action" and "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea" alone blows me away, to say nothing of the furious Asian-tinged drumming of "Lipstick Vogue."

Furthermore, Elvis & The Attractions have found that rarest of all musical will-o-the-wisps: an identifiable SOUND.  In fact, the sound was so ubiquitous that it went on to stand in for the New Wave movement as a whole: a few seconds of that faux-chintz farfisa organ and that impatient, snappish guitar and you know who you're hearing. It's a sound that is as instantly identifiable with its creators as R.E.M.'s Murmur-era pieces or Radiohead's OK Computer gloom.  Thankfully this sound is put in the service of great songs, like the enraged "No Action" (play this loud and remove all easily-shattered objects from the room) or "Pump It Up" or the bonus track "Radio, Radio."  The more poppy material is ace too - "Lip Service" is a personal favorite, and "Night Rally" is one of Costello's most important pieces, with its first indication of his fascination with fascisms both emotional and political.  It begins in unnerving peace, rolling along over chords, and quite like a Nazi rally it ends up marching along ominously, endlessly, mercilessly, until it just SNAPS off (stealing a page from Lennon's "I Want You," eh?) into quiet.  I think it's very effective, though in a sense it belongs on the next album.

This Year's Model and Armed Forces are effectively companion pieces to one another, you think?  If This Year's Model's violent "punkish" musical attack is all about romantic, personal, and social concerns, then Armed Forces ironically inverts the model with a poppy, accessible approach to songs all about...fascism, political violence, and international concerns.  There seems to be something more than chance in the way that the musical core of each album is in opposition to its dominant theme.  These two albums are like different sides of the same coin, Model's heads to Forces's tails.  And I call heads.  10/10.

Didier Dumonteil <> (22.03.2001)

Angry to the power of 1000,this is a great album.Here the melodies equal the lyrics' strength."No action" ,less than 2 minutes and it blows your mind like a hurricane.Hear the multitracked voices ad infinitum.And the other tracks leave the listener panting for breath"this year's girl" full of scorn,"pump it up","hand in hand" ,the infernal carrousel of "lip service",the nasty "radio radio" .A ballad like "little triggers" is raunchy and seems like an illegimate son of "happiness is a warm gun".

Steve Y <> (19.01.2002)

Heavily influenced by the 70's punk thing, this album leaves you breathless. EC turns phrases throughout the whole thing, and even if you don't know what he's talking about you know he's PISSED. And the Attractions, in their debut, are simply amazing. Nieve is just spooky (and that's an organ, no synths), and the Thomas boys are to this day one of the best rhythym sections in rock n' roll. I had hear MY AIM IS TRUE before this, but this is the one that sucked me in. And it's great proof that good songwriting transcends stylistic boundries.

Throughout the site, George seems to give greater importance to acts who innovate, who do something that hasn't been done before. I think this album is proof that rock n' roll isn't about that. It's about the passion, the energy, and the attention to craft. By definition, rock is a simple musical form (4/4 beat, etc.). Costello proves that the song matters, not the style or arrangement or pose.

John Schlegel <> (28.12.2003)

In my opinion, I'm pretty sure that I consider this to be Elvis Costello's best album; that is, for me, this one finishes ahead of the rest of his "classic period" works I have heard. I still need to check out Get Happy, but I'm confident that this is and will always be my favorite moment in Costello's long and varied career. Now, I agree that the man is an inconsistent songwriter, and I don't think I'd give him a rating above a 3 (as many would), but this sure sounds like a 13 quality album to me. Costello made more versatile and ambitious records, but what wins me to 'This Year's Model' is that it's probably the most consistent thing, on a song-for-song basis, the guy ever recorded. On the first side especially, it's mostly one rip-roaring pop or rock song after another. I can't choose a favorite; maybe "No Action," maybe "This Year's Girl," maybe "Pump It Up." "You Belong to Me" is an overlooked song that I find to be very melodic and catchy. The second half contains a few tracks that aren't all that special, but "Chelsa" -- wow! Maybe that's my favorite on here. And the Attractions are a great band, and put a lot of energy into every one of these performances. This is just a solid, thoroughly enjoyable record. Okay, the instrumentation can be over-bearing at times, and the lyrics are relentlessly hateful, leaving the listener a bit drained by the end of it all, but This Year's Model is still a wall-to-wall classic, and an essential New Wave recording


Ben Greenstein <> (17.10.2000)

Another truly overrated one. You know that Costello himself isn't even too fond of this one? So I'm NOT completely alone in my opinion that it's subpar. Elvis admits that he was going for a slick, radio-friendly, new wave sound, so my claim that this was a sellout is NOT completely unjustified. His voice doesn't bug me, but about half of the songs do. "Big Boys" sucks ass (I am so sorry, but it's really one of the worst songs I've heard) and so do "Chemistry Class" and "Moods For Moderns" (too jerky, that one!). The other songs are pretty good, although I don't like the ABBA-esque production one bit. This one has NEVER grown on me, and I've been listening to it for about three years now. Just the same flat, empty album with a few marvelous pop songs thrown in there. To be honest, I think I would go back to the six I gave this on my old review of it - I really just don't enjoy it very much. 6/10.

Rich Bunnell <> (18.10.2000)

It takes a while to get used to on the whole, because here Mr. McManus finally stops aping on other musical styles and unveils his own distinct style, but he's still on the top of his game. Elvis's vocals really don't bother me at all like they seem to bother some people - I think his voice is very fitting for the material; just try to imagine this stuff sung by a guy with a sleek, pop-happy voice. 'Twouldn't work, says I. "Chemistry Class" sucks, but the rest of the songs are fine and dandy like sour candy. "Goon Squad" is the most tension-filled Costello ever got without sounding bitter and silly in the process (like most of his Blood & Chocolate album), "Busy Bodies" and "Moods For Moderns" are really weird bouncy pop-rockers, and "Oliver's Army"....yeesh, does everything lead back to ABBA with you, George? Great song. So is "Party Girl," even though it rips off its coda from "Carry That Weight". The overall sound of the album is a bit more annoying than those of the first two, even though the songwriting is still ace, so I'll go with an eight.

Glenn Wiener <> (23.10.2000)

This recording is Elvis' best. Each song just sounds so fresh. Its not just beat crazy music or ballads or rockers. Its music with special embellishments and accentuated rhythms. Much thought came from the somewhat warped mind of Elvis and these songs are always worth a listen even in my large collection especially that 'Oliver's Army' song. I can't imagine what the bonus CD tracks sound like but when I get the CD I'll update this review.

Didier Dumonteil <> (22.03.2001)

My favourite!I love this stuff to death.The sound has matured dramatically.It became almost spectorian ("Oliver'(Cromwell)s Army) ,using the reggae as few can do ("2 little Hitlers),showing at last  his Beatles influence("party girl" :the final is Abbey Roadesque to a fault;After the B. influence will emerge again particularly in imperial bedroom,often called "the SgtPepper's of the eighties")."Peace,love and understanding" is absolutely astounding:mixing words coming from long ago with the relentless beat of the -then- new wave.The 2 versions of "accidents will happen" are indispensable:the slow one ,first issued on a bonus single is now included in the bonus tracks:the alienation topic is thus revivified in the slow dramatic rendition.And EC tackles also humor , a dubious humor,besides.In the grandiose "chemistry class " he asks "are you ready for the final solution?" before introducing his two little Hitlers.

Yafeu ibn Taom <> (03.04.2001)

North? Leave it to me and my dumb ass, I thought 'Oliver's Army' was about photo journalists! 'Moods for Moderns' was my college radio intro to Elvis and the lyrics, timing and phrasing was exactly my life at that point a jerked out manic depressive affair. Well at least it didn't turn into a 'Two Little Hitlers' affair This "Mod" was just about to go "Punk", no help from Elvis. The vocals and the lyrics ain't your normal fair, you got to love the substitute for the obvious rhyme to "You got a chemistry class I want a piece of your mind" instead of ass. The protagonist of 'Big Boys' might never gain the confidence to make the babies so he can later tell them Accidents will happen. But damn, the audacity of a bastard admitting he's the outcome of a hit and run affair from some Party Girl who forgot her contraceptives, tiring of pleasing herself after polishing the buttons of her Green Shirt. Busy Bodies might build up to getting nowhere but the Goon Squad ain't the only occupation offering Senior Service positions with death and disabilty benefits. Sick leave, flex time, paid vacation, YES! Just don't dismember or kill me!!! But really, Armed Forces is a good range of late 70's musical presentations from a quartet of mods with no pretentions of rock stardom, especially if you were around when this stuff first came out. I keep it right next to the Boomtown Rats Fine Art of Surfacing.

John Schlegel <> (28.12.2003)

The other Elvis Costello album I've heard that I think is essential to own (unless, I suppose, you LOATH New Wave). A very strong 12; heck, maybe another 13 in my book. Can't always decide. Anyway, Elvis goes for a more conventional pop approach, and it's another very consistent set of solid songs. There's more diversity this time, and that's precisely what I love about some of the lesser regarded tracks on here. "Big Boys" might not have much in terms of melody, but I really get caught up in the booming rhythm of that song. I enjoy the aggressive intensity of "Busy Bodies" and "Goon Squad," and "Sunday's Best" is wonderfully swaying (and humorous). It's the rhythms, not the melodies, that make some of these songs. The boppy "Senior Service" is just beautifully fucked up and rousing. THEN, on top of all that joy, there are the more conventionally tuneful songs like "Accidents Will Happen in Hitler's Army 'Cause There's No Understanding," creating another fine wad of well-polished tune-age. I really DON'T understand what the big deal is about "Party Girl," and "Chemistry Class" is blah, but the rest of Armed Forces is more or less jim dandy. Another great recording of the era.

Matt(the great)Byrd <> (13.07.2005)

uhhhhhhhhhh........... this album is a bit confusing for me to review........ it took about a year and a half of listening for me to actually enjoy this album. Oliver's Army is a triumph, but still, most of the rest of the album is pretty inacessible (did I spell that right?). Their are a TON of hooks in here, the melodies are great, but this album still grates on you. The lyrics, although well-written, want to make me laugh or do something.... maybe have a seizure!! It's pretty well-done, it's just so darn hard to like..... and once I took the time to like it I realized that the time wasn't worth it.... unlike say....... Pet Sounds. I prefer the easier-to-like My Aim Is True, which is, a fine, quick pop album. That said, Costello is very highly respected by me, I think he's one of rock's most talented artists.... but still, he got ahead of himself a lot. My favorite is Imperial Bedroom........... an album.......... that is very odd in my catalogue of great albums.... I mean, I liked it right away, because the melodies were very immediate...... but now the melodocism kind of loses me, kind of like Armed Forces, I'm kind of going backwards.... as far as resonace.... well I'm confused with the person who finds that Costello resonates.


Rich Bunnell <> (06.02.2001)

Whether or not this album is "Generic Attractions," I still feel the need to stand up for it. It's indisputably my favorite EC release. After temporarily getting all of the bizarre soul experimentalism out of his system with Get Happy!!, Elvis returned to a more basic, mildly-diverse sound, sort of like a smoother-playing, poppier Armed Forces. I'd use the cliche "singer/songwriter album," but that seems more applicable to the later King Of America. This isn't a sweeping artistic statement, it's really just a bunch of songs.

GREAT songs. "Clubland" is the sole surviving classic that most compilations will acknowledge, and it's a great, shifty, bizarre song - notice how the bridge uses those same "transmitter" sounds that close the title track from the Clash's London Calling. Elvis practically invents the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's sound on the trashy, vastly-underrated "Luxembourg," and "From A Whisper To A Scream" is the perfect, rocking fusion of both EC and Squeeze's styles. Maybe I'm missing something, because I hear a lot going for "White Knuckles," even though Alroy slams it for being "lyrically ambiguous." Whatever. As for "New Lace Sleeves," I object to the fact that your response to the song was a qualified "it's pretty good" -- get a crowd of Costello fans into one room (if you can find enough in one city) and it's likely that 2/3 of them, myself included, will have that picked as his best song. The minimalistic, thumping verses so perfectly counterpoint the "The teacher never told you anything but....WHITE LIES!" and the result is just an amazing song. "You'll Never Be A Man" is great too, but I'd personally only give it joint second place on the album along with "Clubland."

So yeah, it's not Costello's most adventurous album. In fact, it's not adventurous at all. If you want adventurous, buy Imperial Bedroom (wonderful) or Mighty Like A Rose(ick). If you want just a consistent set of great Costello music, buy this one. "Different Finger" is lame, but one bad song and thirteen good ones do not a bad album make. 10/10

Didier Dumonteil <> (22.03.2001)

Trust is a transitionary effort."You'll never be a  man" with its despising lyrics sounds like a follow-up to "big boys"."Watch your step" and "shot with his own gun" are certainly enjoyable.."From a whisper to a scream" is powerful and awesome.But by and large,now ,after the four previous albums,we are a bit blasÈ.In 1982,Imperial bedroom would rekindle the flame.

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