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.
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
Least favorite track/tracks:
Overall (1-5 stars): 4.58
|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.
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
|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.
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
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.
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.