Costello is a craftsman…. [His songs] are, indeed, impressive. A master of ambiguity and cliche, pun and precision, Costello is an astonishingly adept writer. He has the confidence to defy conventions of rhyme and grammar and metre and imposes his own syntax on the world. If reviewing were the same thing as essay grading, I'd give him As for sheer cleverness….
But, while I admire Costello's skills, I'm uneasy about what he does with them: There's something oppressive about his music. When I first heard his album [My Aim Is True] I thought my tetchy response was too subjective to make critical sense: Maybe I was just jealous that such an ambitious rock intellectual had made it…....
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