Song of the Day #5,265: ‘The Invisible Man’ – Elvis Costello

‘The Invisible Man’ is a track from Elvis Costello’s 1983 release Punch the Clock, his eighth studio album. Costello teamed up with pop producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley to deliver his most commercial album, hoping for chart success that had largely eluded him to that point.

It worked, to a degree. Punch the Clock was his best-selling album in several years and produced a modest international hit in ‘Everyday I Write the Book.’ That song became his first Top 40 single in the U.S., and one of only two in his entire career (bonus points to commenters who can name the second).

Critically, the album fared less well, often compared unfavorably to its predecessor, Imperial Bedroom.

I find it hard to compare anything favorably to Imperial Bedroom — one of Costello’s masterpieces — but I do love Punch the Clock. The shinier arrangements are a nice change of pace, and pair nicely with his typically brilliant lyrics.

In addition to ‘Everyday I Write the Book,’ a classic, this album features ‘Shipbuilding,’ a beautiful ballad that deviates from the pop sound of the rest of the record with glorious results.

[Verse 1]
I was committed to life and then commuted to the outskirts
With all the love in the world
Living for thirty minutes at a time
With a break in the middle for adverts
But it’s a wonderful world within these cinema walls
Where a shower of affection becomes Niagara Falls
And you wish she could step down from the screen
To your seat in the stalls

[Chorus]
‘Cause if stars are only painted on the ceiling above
Then who can you turn to and who do you love?
I want to get out while I still can
I want to be like Harry Houdini
Now I’m the invisible man

[Bridge]
My head is spinning round faster and faster
Here I stand on the edge of disaster
I’m shattered like a piece of crystal porcelain or alabaster

[Chorus]
‘Cause if stars are only painted on the ceiling above
Then who can you turn to and who do you love?
I want to get out while I still can

[Verse 2]
Crowds surround loudspeakers hanging from the lampposts
Listening to the murder mystery
Meanwhile someone’s hiding in the classroom
Forging the books of history
Never mind there’s a good film showing tonight
Where they hang everybody who can read and write
Oh that could never happen here
But then again it might

[Chorus]
‘Cause if stars are only painted on the ceiling above
Then who can you turn to and who do you love?
I want to get out while I still can
I want to be like Harry Houdini
Now I’m the invisible man
Now I’m the invisible man
Now I’m the invisible man
Now I’m the invisible man
And you won’t see me

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #5,265: ‘The Invisible Man’ – Elvis Costello

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I’m going to guess “Veronica.”

    I really love this album, critics be damned! I probably would rank it 3rd or 4th, with Imperial Bedroom and King of America, of course, being 1 and 2 ( and don’t ask me to choose which of those takes the top spot).

  2. Amy says:

    My guess is Veronica.

    I’m not familiar with this album outside the two songs mentioned here which must be on a Greatest Hits album 🤷🏻‍♀️

  3. Clay says:

    Yes, you are both correct. ‘Veronica’ made it all the way to #19 on the Billboard Hot 100.

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