Since bursting onto the scene in , Elvis Costello has constantly refused to be pigeonholed. Originally lumped in as part of the punk and New Wave movements due to his short, angry songs, he quickly took a series of musical detours, occasionally circling back before trying something else new. Combining his musical curiosity with a work rate that would fell most speed freaks, Costello has been fortunate enough to collaborate with seemingly whomever he was listening to in a given week.
With a look that resembled Buddy Holly, Elvis Costello appeared visually in stark contrast to the bands like The Sex Pistols and The Ramones who at the time were the headliners of the mid to late s punk rock movements. While My Aim Is True may have been bathed a bit in new wave sentiment and style, the melodies and chord changes were more inspired by the brilliance of artists like The Beatles , Elton John and Burt Bacharach. Any critic or fan with half an ear could hear that My Aim Is True defined the arrival of a major new talent. Since , Elvis Costello has released thirty one studio albums. Over the years, his studio albums have featured backing bands known as the Attractions and the Imposters. From a commercial standpoint, Elvis Costello had far more success in the U. K breaking the top 40 over forty times.
When considering material from over five decades, in as varying sonic categories as punk, bluegrass, New Wave, country, electronic, hip-hop as fiddled with on Wise Up Ghost with the Roots , narrowing down a top 20 Best Songs list for Elvis Costello is more than a tall order. There are simply too many albums, collaborators, artistic phases, evolutions and bouts of fancy to contend with to approach anything more than a highly subjective opinion from someone me who has dedicated a huge portion of his listening regimen to dissecting the innards of The Bespectacled One. Operating within a simple chord progression, the folk-y vocals immediately impress why Costello is one of the most formidable lyricists in rock music history. Imperial Bedroom On his second album not to be produced by Nick Lowe? Or is it still to soon to know? Or is it still too soon to know? By the end of the song, it seems that the father and daughter may not be as keen on each other anymore. Regardless, the sweeping crescendo of piano and voice? You really do get depressed if you wear blue lenses. They make you sad.
Elvis Costello is a genius. He can mix pop and rage without diminishing the effect of either element. Sometimes brutally direct, sometimes subtle, often intriguingly opaque. But no genius is without flaws. Impossible to tie down stylistically, Costello has this unique ability to glide across the invisible boundaries of genre maintaining his own distinctive sound, with unfailing authenticity and a fitting reverence for whatever hallowed musical ground might be beneath his feet. Attempting to compile a definitive list of 10 Elvis Costello songs from such a long and eclectic career would be a foolish pursuit, so these are just my favourites.