Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model

Today’s selection was released in 1978, not even a full year since that “other” musical Elvis left to meet that big peanut butter, banana bacon sandwich in the sky.

Today’s selection:

Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model

Listen to it here: http://grooveshark.com/#!/playlist/Elvis+Costello+This+Years+Model/66608535

Read about him here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_Costello#Discography

Fun Facts:  Born Declan MacManus, Elvis took his stage name from a combination of Elvis Presley and his father’s stage name “Costello”.

This is Elvis’ 1st album with the Attractions as his backing band, his 1st backing band call Clover had members who went on to play with Huey Lewis and the News and The Doobie Brothers.


Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model

I’ve heard Elvis Costello before. In fact, I got to see him free from a luxury box at the Dodge Theater a few years ago and invited my friend Jackie when we worked for Shady Cable. The thing is I didn’t really know a lot of his music. Of course, I thoroughly enjoyed the concert, but didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on his entire catalogue, so I bought the “best of” two disc that came out and promptly forgot about it. I have a tendency to lose focus on things and learning all of the words to Elvis Costello wasn’t high on my list of priorities.
I’m excited to listen to his songs placed the way that he intended on the album, as opposed to the jarring disjointed run of a compilation.

I’m in a great mood!

After Listening:
Costello is great to listen to, but I’m not as big a fan as Vicki or Seth. It isn’t one of the first things that I would think of putting on when I’m lazing about the house or feel like dancing around in a tutu (though I totally would). I’m glad I got to listen to this, it’s good to have a reminder that there are musicians that you appreciate that occasionally slip from your mind.

Favorite track/tracks:
The Beat – Hey Hipsters! Let’s have a beach party! In my head I am forming a plot for a movie where Elvis and I both work at the crab shack on a beach. We’re both tired of saying “No, I’m not wearing my glasses ironically. I’m practically blind.” Unruly hipsters then pull them from our faces and cruelly crush them. So we get contacts, but enact our revenge by killing people that are wearing the frames that we once loved.
(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea – I really dig the bass riff.
Lip Service – Excuse me as I throw a dance party in my office.

Least favorite track/tracks:
Pump It Up – I cannot listen to this song without flashing back to the concert. A man in a different luxury box had unbuttoned his work shirt and had flung his tie over his shoulder. He was rubbing his undershirt against his skin like his belly was a bowling ball that needed to be shined. I could smell his intoxication. During this song he was shouting the lyrics at the top of his lung, then he coughed and puke dribbled from the side of his mouth before he started slurring the words again. It’s funny now, but it was TERRIBLE then. That’s why I hate going to concerts. I cannot stand listening to a**holes around me singing the songs that I paid to hear THE BAND SING… and singing them poorly. Plus, this song is played to death in commercials.

Overall (1-5 stars):  4.58
Extra Credit:Crystal Stilts – Through the Floor


Elvis Costello-This Year’s Model

Preconceived Notions:  As soon as I saw this was today’s album, I got pretty excited, so I guess I’m looking forward to this.  I always worry about looking forward to anything; it always increases the possibility for disappointment, but like I said, I’m pretty hopeful for this and am probably going into it really wanting to like it anyway.

As Listening:
Hand In Hand-I like the vaguely Phil Specter-ish production and simple drum line that’s easy to clap to
Oh I’ve absolutely heard (I Don’t Wanna Go To) Chelsea.  I knew I had heard something from this album, but none of the titles looked familiar
Living In Paradise-It sounds like it has the name of a Jimmy Buffett song.  Also, there’s something about it that sounds a lot like “What’s So Funny About Peace Love & Understanding”

After Listening: I can’t see how there’s anything to really dislike about this album.  I think that Mr. Costello knew exactly the type of sound he was going for and the mix of influences really works and no song overstays its welcome.  But it’s also a really easy album to just put on and listen to all the way through.  Also, I feel like it’s nice to have this one come up right after the Pavement album, since that one was so steeped in its own temporal influences and this one, in stark contrast, seems to have songs that have combined the sounds so well that it doesn’t seem to be stuck in any specific time or place.  I hate to use the word “timeless” because I feel like it lends a slightly unnecessary dramatic affect, but, yeah, it’s kind of timeless.

Favorite Tracks: No Action/Hand In Hand/ (I Don’t Wanna Go To) Chelsea
Least Favorite: Little Triggers – I kind of wish that he had been able to go back in time and put this one on My Aim is True and let Alison take its place on this disc.  It would have been a perfect album if that had been the case.

Overall: 4.8


Preconceived Notions: Buddy Holly and the film PCU (“Pump it up” is featured therein).  Those are the two biggest images of him that I have, and of the few hits I’ve heard of his – I’m was content to let those serve as the standard bearers for my thoughts on him.  Until today, when I digest the full deal.

After Listening:  I was a little surprised at the supporting role that the guitar plays on this record.  The musical makeup seems much more about the bass, drums, and keys here.  In particular there is some great bass playing on here ( eg the bassline from “Lipstick Vogue”)   Combine this with his vocals and there are certainly elements of a very pop friendly record. Of course there’s not just the pop formula here, we get elements of punk and new wave- amid echo’s to late 50’s and early 60’s rock touches.  Some of these styles are very subtlety differentiated, but that makes their inclusion on the record nearly seamless.  True, there’s nothing truly adventurous musically here, and that can lend itself to stretches on the record where 2 or 3 songs later –you’ll feel like it was all one song separated by a second or two of silence.  Costello’s lyrics are pretty consistent in their sarcasm and criticism of life, even if the specific subject of the songs jump around quite a bit.  From issues with relationships to political condemnations you can tell that he’s not holding a lot back here, though his actual tone, his “singing” does leave something to be desired in a few places on the record.

Favorite Tracks:   “(I don’t want to go to) Chelsa”  A little bit of white man’s funk is going on in the rhythm section here, and the syncopated guitar riff that breaks obnoxiously in and cuts right back – provides a quality edge.  Lyrically it seems to be playing a few intermingling themes of modeling and insanity, and probably prostitution –leaving the listener to tie it all in personally is a nice touch.
“You Belong to Me”  – Perhaps the song on the album with the most call back to traditional rock, it’s got catchy basslines, twangy guitar, and competent keys.  Ironically it sounds a little unique from the songs around it because it follows the basic rock formula so closely.

Least Favorite:  “Night Rally” – Sure there’s some clever word play about Nazi’s here and showering as the obligatory attack on the Queen, and it was the cause for a lot of controversy that got Costello banned from Saturday Night Live – but really, it’s just not that good a song.  When you strip away the controversy you’re left with a song that actually has a little bit of Bowie merged with bad ballad crafting.  It’s under 3mins and feels like 10.

Overall: 4.12 This was a better album than I expected.  I think hits like “Pump it up” sort of obstruct the view of the artist as “meh”, and if you don’t gravitate toward them you might not be inclined to dig any deeper.  Most of what’s on here is good, it’s an artist finding his voice – and while the heights of this record might not be towering, there are no depths that seem dismaying.  Lyrical examination gives Costello extra credit for often conjuring up multiple levels of intent and the infamous “wry witticism”  cliché – that actually does exist here.  Vocally he’s not the best singer, musically they’re not the best band….but together they put out a good solid album.

Maybe I just never learned my harmony part, because what everybody says sounds odd to them sounds perfectly natural to me.  – Elvis Costello


Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model

Preconceptions: My pick, and another album I’ve bought numerous times. I listen to this regularly enough not to anticipate any surprises.

Killer: (I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea, The Beat, Living in Paradise, Pump It Up
Filler: n/a

Overall: Between 1977 & 1979, Elvis Costello recorded three of the best albums of that decade. If My Aim is True, This Years Model, and Armed Forces were Costello’s only albums, he’d still be talked about today. Find me any other artist with a better rookie hat trick. Go on, I’m waiting.

Rating: 5.0
Prelisten guess: 5.0
Season to Date: +1.87

Extra Credit: Rykodisc put out a box set in 1993 called Two & a Half Years that featured many bonus tracks and alternate versions. I have assembled the best of these and added two infamous Saturday Night Live appearances.
Listen to these, for reals.

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Record Club began in the cold, dank, snowmageddon scene that was New England of January 2011. We’re probably no different than you. We all work in cubicles, some in smaller, less private cubicles than others; that just means we have to be even sneakier about how we listen to our music. But we have to listen to our music, mostly as a way of saving our own personal sanity. Sometimes our opinions lead us to debates that may or may not be published in their entirety on this site, but I can promise you’ll at least get a glimpse of the way our minds work. The main goal is to find new music we like or find old music that we didn’t know we liked. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes it’s a total and complete disaster. After our ears have rejoiced or stopped bleeding we try something else. This is our pattern, every Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes, when the club isn’t officially in session, just to keep everyone on their toes, we throw in a theme day. We’re beginning to run low on our original list, so please, if you have albums that you’d like us to review or themes that you’d like to see our playlist of, feel free to contribute. After all, we’re all in this together once we punch the time clock. So if you’re busy (or just plain bored) lurking in your cubicle as you read this join in. After all, life wasn’t meant to be lived staring at a computer screen. I guarantee you, it’s at least more fun when you plug the headphones in.

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