Elvis Costello and the Attractions “Punch The Clock”

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#309 in the Series) is Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Punch the Clock.

Elvis Costello is one busy guy, and with over 30 studio albums (and counting!) it’s hard to pick just one, especially when every one seems to have its own feel. Punch the Clock is one of those albums that people either love or hate, and for good reasons either way. It was roundly described as “uneven,” and although that may be, there are a few compelling reasons to give it another listen. One for me is personal, and that is its issue in 1983 was in my “formidable” years of music, and later in college I think I wore the grooves out of the LP. That aside, though, there are some other pretty significant points to be made.

Elvis Costello along with Steve Nieve in 1983

PTC was the next release after Imperial Bedroom, and although I think that’s a wickedly great album, it didn’t bring EC the commercial success he desired. So in came Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley to produce PTC, and ECs attempt at another hit was realized in “Everyday I Write the Book” which became his first U.S. Top 40 hit. Also, the addition of the TKO Horns (originally formed with Dexy’s Midnight Runners) and Afrodiziak on backing vocals brought a different sound.

The track that to me is the most impactful, however, is “Shipbuilding,” an absolutely beautiful piece of work. This featured the late Chet Baker (rumored to be his last recording) on trumpet, and Baker credited Elvis with giving him a resurgence (albeit brief) in his career. EC also says this could have been his favorite lyric, “Diving for dear life, when we could be diving for pearls.” Originally written about the 1982 Falklands conflict, Radiohead nominated it as the song they’d like to reach alien life! Ok, then!

Give it another listen if you haven’t for a while. Choosing an Elvis Costello album for me is like a blind pick from a candy jar, you don’t know what you’ll get but you’ll love it one way or another.

— Kristin Morrisson

Track Listing

Side One

  1. Let Them All Talk
  2. Everyday I Write the Book
  3. The Greatest Thing
  4. The Element Within Her
  5. Love Went Mad
  6. Shipbuilding

Side Two

  1. T.K.O. Boxing Day
  2. Charm School
  3. The Invisible Man
  4. King of Thieves
  5. Pills and Soap
  6. Mouth Almighty
  7. The World and His Wife



  • Elvis Costello-vocals, Epiphone, Gretsch and Fender guitars, Synclavier and Casiotone, all sounds and voices on “Pills and Soap”

The Attractions

  • Bruce Thomas-Electric Wal bass guitar
  • Steve Nieve – Bösendorfer piano, Emulator, Fairlight CMI, Vox organ, Hammond organ, Synclavier
  • Pete Thomas-Gretsch Drums, Sabian cymbals

The TKO Horns

  • Jim Paterson-trombone
  • Jeff Blythe-alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, clarinet
  • Paul Speare-tenor saxophone, flute
  • Dave Plews-trumpet

The Additional Personnel

  • Stewart Robson-trumpet & flugelhorn on “The World and His Wife”
  • Afrodiziak (Caron Wheeler and Claudia Fontaine)-backing vocals
  • Chet Baker-trumpet solo on “Shipbuilding”
  • David Bedford-string arrangements
  • Morris Pert-percussion


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Posted by Kristin Morrisson

1 Comment

  1. Reddhedd (10 Mar 2011, 0:00)

    Totally agree with your assessment of this terrific album! I always stop and listen whenever “Shipbuilding” comes on my iPod. Thanks for posting!

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