Thursday, March 26, 2015

Review: 'Elvis Is King: Costello’s My Aim Is True'

In my recent review of Pop Classics’ installment on “Twin Peaks”, I mentioned that the new series is yet another in the vein of mini-book lines like Continuum’s 33 1/3. With just the fourth Pop Classics entry, rock journalist Richard Crouse gets even deeper into 33 1/3’s action by devoting his book to a single album. He also shows that increasingly self-indulgent and unsatisfying long-running line how to do it. There’s no pretentious navel-gazing or “how do I fill 100 pages?” tangents in Elvis Is King: Costello’s My Aim Is True. Like that no-bullshit debut album released at the end of a decade infamous for its poses and pomposity, Crouse’s book says what’s necessary in fast, furious fashion, covering Costello’s musical upbringing, his debut’s recording, its marketing, its songs, and subsequent stage and TV support appearances. Never does he lapse into obnoxious and very un-Rock & Roll pseudo-academic blather. Basically, he does what we always want 33 1/3’s writers to do. This isn’t a perfect book— Crouse’s disdain for all Rock & Roll made before 1976 gets tiresome quickly, he relies a bit too much on quoting a limited number of sources (particularly Elvis’s own liner notes to the 2001 reissue of My Aim Is True), and like Andy Burns’s Wrapped in Plastic: Twin Peaks, his very short book suffers a bit from bad timing, since it comes so close on the heels of Richard Balls’ thorough Stiff Records Story—but as a pocket making-of/history/analysis of one of the great freshman records, Elvis Is King satisfies. When was the last time you could say that about a 33 1/3 book?