Elvis Costello is cursed by being almost too smart. This at once makes for elegant, extravagant ironies in his best work--most arrestingly, the homages to '60s rock and folk in his two alleged punk albums--and glaring, pinched intellectualisms in his worst. No serious student of the music will deny him a place in the music's handfull of most talented and potent performer-artistes; yet in this pantheon he will always be the least full-bodied, least influential, and perhaps most disrespected. Considerd the height of new wave on its release, My Aim Is True is really folk rock,from the rumbling instrumentation of "Miracle Man" to Byrsdian "(The Angels Wanna Wear My)Red Shoes," a conseit that masks a self-concious anger: "If  they knew what i think/They'd bury me alive," Costello yelps proudly. "Watching the Detectives" captures well his unmatched sardonism. A panting suitor's date is absorbed in a TV murder mystery; the male's impotent rage and the woman's blithe vacuousness ("she's filing her nails as they're dragging the lake") are limned with economy and venom.


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