Forget the Beatles: Elvis Costello’s glorious first 11 albums are being re-released on iTunes next Tuesday, bestowing a decade of jagged and luxuriant and popsicle-sweet pop music upon a new generation of downloaders.
Mr. Costello wrote last century’s prickliest songs about hits and hip fashions—like “Radio Radio” and “This Year’s Girl” on his coke-nosed second album—so it makes sense that he resisted Apple’s digital music behemoth for so long. (The Fab Four are still holding out.)
But his debut record, My Aim Is True, turns 30 this year (in fact, it will get its own anniversary release on CD in the fall), so it’s about time for a resurgence. Back in 1977, that album tore through its schlocky era’s sleaze with icy guitars and amphetamine melodies. The unshampooed Sex Pistols debuted the same year with their curled-lip royal insults, but Elvis paired his snarls with timeless, all-powerful pop hooks.
The McCartney-worthy “Alison” (“I don’t know if you’ve been loving some body, I only know it isn’t mine”) was his most contemptuous and lonely love song until the 1986 bad-marriage ballad “Indoor Fireworks”: “You were the spice of life,” he sang, “the gin in my vermouth.”
Except for a cornball album called Goodbye Cruel World, Mr. Costello’s bespectacled punk grew more worldly and varied in the 1980’s: Only one year after his 20-song R&B lovefest, Get Happy!!, came the honky-tonking Almost Blue, followed by the billion-instrument Imperial Bedroom.
Mr. Costello, who lives in Manhattan with his wife, Diana Krall (plus their new twins), will be celebrating his 11 digital albums on May 16 in Times Square’s Nokia Theater. And at the top of the month, he’s releasing two CD compilations, The First 10 Years and Rock and Roll Music. But who needs greatest hits when there are so many masterpieces at our fingertips?
My Aim Is True and other albums will be available on iTunes on May 1. Mr. Costello plays the Nokia Theater on May 16.
Follow Max Abelson via RSS.