Elvis Costello / Punch The Clock – Bass and Horns Are Key to the Best Imports

Hot Stamper Pressings of Elvis’s Albums Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Elvis Costello

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The bottom end is as punchy, well-defined and powerful as they come. There’s plenty of low-end on this record; regrettably most copies suffer from either a lack of bass or a lack of bass definition. I can’t tell you how much you’re missing when the bass isn’t right on this album. (Or if you have the typical bass-shy audiophile speaker, yuck.) When the bass is lacking or ill-defined, the music seems labored; the moment-to-moment rhythmic changes in the songs blur together, and the band just doesn’t swing the way it’s supposed to.

The bass, along with the horn sound, are the two key elements to getting a good copy of this record. The horns are often compressed, making them lose their bite and smearing them together.

On some copies you can pick out the trombones and on some copies you can’t; you just hear Horns because the individual instruments are smashed into a congested mess. This is Elvis’ Motown Album; the horns are what bring the music to life. They’re what make this album fun.

On this copy, you get the full-on bottom end WHOMP you paid for, with no loss in control. You can clearly follow Bruce Thomas’s bass lines throughout the songs, a real treat for any music lover. (He and Elvis don’t get along, hence the end of the Attractions as his backing band. I guess we should be thankful for the nine albums on which they were together; many of them are Desert Island Discs for me.)

Not only that, but the drums have real body and resonance, a far cry from the wimpy cardboard drums so many rock records have. Listen to the drum sound on Charm School. Man, those are some BIG FAT PUNCHY DRUMS. Very reminiscent of Bowie’s Let’s Dance. The drum sound on that album is some of the best we’ve ever heard, bar none.

Right out of the gate, Let Them All Talk is lively and full of energy. Elvis’ vocals have all the presence and clarity you could hope for. Since the drums are such a driving force for the Attractions, you have got to have room and spaciousness around them. This copy showcases the percussion with weight down low and harmonics on the cymbals.

The female background singers are clear, another tough test.

It should be noted that this is not an easy record to reproduce well. Everything needs to be working at its best to bring this recording to life, especially in the range of 200 cycles and under, an area where most audiophile systems are at their weakest. If you’ve got power to spare down there, this one will really rock.


WHAT TO LISTEN FOR

Bass and Whomp

Smear

Transparency Vs Opacity


Further Reading

We’ve identified a number of Demo Discs for Bass on the site, and there are surely many more to come.

Whomp is a quality of the bottom end we look for here at Better Records. If you have speakers that move a lot of air down low and like to play your music loud you know what whomp is all about.

The formula goes like this: deep bass + mid bass + speed + dynamics + energy = whomp) at the listening position.

You can find your very own Hot Stamper pressings by using the techniques we lay out in Hot Stamper Shootouts — The Four Pillars of Success.

And finally we’ll throw in this old warhorse discussing How to Become an Expert Listener, subtitled Hard Work and Challenges Can Really Pay Off.

Because in audio, much like the rest of life, hard work and challenges really do pay off.

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