I was reading somewhere else on the internets a discussion as to when Elvis Costello jumped the shark. And it made me ponder that exact same question. When exactly did he jump the shark for me?
Back in the early 1980’s I was a pretty huge Costello fan. His first, from 1977, My Aim Is True is one of those almost perfect albums. Smart sharp vitriolic angry songs, he was kind of the thinking man’s punk. The next few albums of his never could, and never did, match the quality of his first, though they all had some great songs. And that was enough to keep him tops of my pops.
I was originally going to say that Punch The Clock was his Shark Jumping album. Yeah, it had some nice songs, Everyday I Write The Book, Shipbuilding most notably, but it missed on a few cylinders, and it sounded too…soft. Strings and horns and orchestrations? From the thinking man’s punk? Was he done for?
But how could I say he’d jumped the shark when he still had the albums Blood & Chocolate, King of America, and even Spike (an album I liked but many others didn’t as much)… all really good albums with a lot of great songs? Surely we had to accomodate him experimenting with the pop songs and sound of Punch The Clock. I had to give him that allowance. No, I decided, Punch the Clock did not jump the shark.
Nor do I think he jumped the shark with Mighty Like a Rose. Yes, it’s a difficult album to like, and the one that forever changed me from a buy-every-Elvis-Costello-Album guy to one who would wait and hear the reviews first. But still, it was Elvis being Elvis. Not very good Elvis, but still Elvis.
With the follow-up to that one, though, The Juliet Letters with the Brodsky Quartet, Elvis was pretty much done for in my mind. An egotistical stunt if ever there was one.
That was his Jump The Shark Album. Without question.