Monday, August 5, 2013

Elvis Costello - Punch The Clock

Today (August 5th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Punch The Clock, the eighth studio album from Elvis Costello and the Attractions. The album charted at number 27 in the Netherlands, number 24 on the US Billboard Hot 200, number 22 in Australia, number 18 in Norway, number 9 in Sweden, number 6 in New Zealand and number 3 in the UK.

Side one starts with “Let Them All Talk”; as the second single it charted at number 59 in the UK. It features the amazing fanfare by the TKO Horns (Jim Paterson, Jeff Blythe, Paul Speare and Dave Plews).

“Everyday I Write the Book”, the first single, went to number 40 in Australia and Canada, number 36 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 33 on the US Mainstream Rock chart, number 28 in the UK, number 23 in Ireland, and number 20 in New Zealand. This song is an absolute favorite of mine; to this day, I will sing right along with Costello whenever it comes on the car radio. Its lyrics instantly appealed to me as I longed to be a fiction writer as a teen.

Pete Thomas lays down an infectious beat on “The Greatest Thing”, a tune about a woman who takes her marriage with a huge grain of salt. The album’s title also comes from the lyrics of this song, mentioned three times.

“The Element Within Her” is a pleasing pop song, complete with a la-la-la chorus. But, buried beneath its rosy musical exterior, lies a foundation of heartbreak.

With a strong piano keyboard foundation, the bitter sentiments of “Love Went Mad” play out like a perky, pop song of the 60’s.

The slow and somber “Shipbuilding”, with music by Clive Langer, is interesting lyrically as it tries to balance the increased prosperity for small shipbuilding towns with the fact that their output is being used to send soldiers off to war.

Side two opens with “T.K.O. (Boxing Day)”, a song about how cruel life can be at times and feel like everything is against you.

I like the bass groove that Bruce Thomas lays down on “Charm School”, a song that tells that sometimes you cannot change the basic nature of a person.

The anxiously urgent “The Invisible Man” is next. I like the way the horns and piano play off one another as the song fades out.

“Mouth Almighty” follows. While a perfectly decent song, it never did leave as much of an impression on me.

“King of Thieves” brings in some lofty orchestration, adding a little variety at this point in the record.

“Pills and Soap”, with an ominous opening that sets a dark mood, was released as a single in the UK where it reached number 16. This one really paints a vivid picture of self-destruction.

The album closes with “The World and His Wife”.

I owned a copy of Punch The Clock on vinyl, bought during the 1983 fall semester of my first year of college. It has been ages since I heard the whole album though (my vinyl collection long since gone), so it was nice to revisit it. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed most of it, particularly the first side. I am definitely looking to add this one to my digital music library.

Looking for more of my Elvis Costello reviews? Check out the links below.

- For 1978’s This Year’s Model, click here.

- For 1982’s Imperial Bedroom, click here.

- For 1986’s Blood & Chocolate, click here.

1 comment:

HERC said...

Such a good listen.

Gonna pull this one out today and give it some time between the ears.

Never met a person yet who didn't like or love "Everyday I Write The Book" which is weird because in interviews, Costello has said he knocked the song out in less than 10 minutes and wasn't emotionally invested in it. His live performances of the song lack the sweetness of the album track.

Nonetheless, seek out the Jellybean Benitez Club Mix (sometimes labelled as Special Version) if you're into such things. There's also an Extended Mix, an alternate version and an instrumental version out there.