You have to admire Elvis Costello, and not just for making album after album of hot-selling, quality music — but for his seemingly effortless ability to shift genres.
He helped define New Wave with his first album, My Aim Is True. That one was a stripped-down tribute to rock’s mid-’50s birth, but with lyrics so up-to-date as to border on subversive. Two year later he came out with the concept album Armed Forces, a musical exploration of fascism. It could very well have been a tedious production, but no. And unlike ’70s Prog Rock’s many… many… many… concept albums, Costello’s has aged kinda brilliantly. Fast forward a couple more years to Punch The Clock, which was pure pop ear candy. Later he even collaborated with Burt Bacharach, and the result (Painted From Memory) is sublime. We’ll forgive him his 1999 cover of “She” from the soundtrack to the unforgivable Notting Hill*, because I’m sure it was an amazing payday and even superstars gotta eat.
Costello could put out an album of New Wave, Punk, Pop, or Prog Rock without ever sounding like he was pandering to any particular audience. But being the New Wave fan that I’ll always be, here’s “Pump It Up” from his 1978 New Wave classic, This Year’s Model.
Apropos of not much, but of the few famous people I’d like to get rip-roaring publicly drunk with, Costello is at the top of the list.
*I’m usually a sucker for Richard Curtis rom-coms, but Julia Roberts was awful, Hugh Grant was bored, and the script feels like Curtis patched it together from the worst bits and pieces of his better works.