Some critics insist this is the best of the early Attractions albums and among Costello’s very best work. I haven’t listened to any of the other records, recently, however, and so I have a really hard time judging whether or not that opinion is correct.
Costello is one of those artists I respect more than I like. I don’t know whether it was because of when I encountered his music, or what, but I’ve never been a huge fan.
He is, of course an excellent songwriter. And probably one of the best of his generation, though he has written so many songs that it’s hard for me to assess that, really. This is a good set of songs but I certainly don’t find it among his most memorable. (Keep in mind, I don’t regularly listen to him.) The songs don’t stand out to me, at least compared to his other records.
And that’s true of the aesthetic as well: yes, there is a change from the early Attractions albums but it’s much more subtle than the risks he would take in subsequent years. (I mean, the guy likes to play different kinds of music. But that’s not super evident here.) I like the sound of Attractions records (and Costello’s in general) and I have no issue with this one.
None of this as meant as criticism so much as it’s a reaction to the idea that this could be the best Attractions record. Without actually listening to them all in order, I lean the other way – that it connects with me the least.
Though I am not a huge fan, I still think Costello has a very high standard for even his lesser work. I have yet to hear anything of his I didn’t think was “good” (though I haven’t dug that far into his discography and have only listened to the acclaimed records so far). And so me saying I like this possibly the least of the Attractions records I’ve heard (in the past) doesn’t really mean that much. Costello is an excellent songwriter whose aesthetic I generally think works.
I’m just not sure this is a classic. Maybe I need to re-listen to all these early records of his.