Elvis Costello is a music iconic. Elvis Costello is a dude whose iconic status makes perfect sense to me. Because Elvis Costello is a dude whose music I really love. But I recently realised that loving his music is a claim I have made for a long, long time, without ever really putting in the work to earn the right to say I love it. Whenever Elvis Costello music makes its way to me, I love it. The problem is, I very really actively seek it out. And in the past, have probably only listened to one or two of his albums from beginning to end in a single sitting. So, today my hard yards to be able to legitimately say I love the music of Elvis Costello begins, with This Year’s Model.
Despite the number of tender, acoustic songs in his back catalogue, Costello has always had a certain punk rock street cred. And the opening pair of No Action and This Year’s Girl back up both aspects of his legacy. Neither is loud or heavy, and the melodies are poppy in their brilliance. But at the same time, there’s a distinct punk rock attitude under the surface.
There’s no backbeat rhythm, but the rolling bass line and jaunty organ makes The Beat reminiscent of punk’s bratty little brother, ska. Speaking of Elvis Costello and pun rock, as this review seems to be doing nothing but, next up is Pump It Up. One of his most well known songs, and to me, the one I think of when I hear Costello referred to as punk rock adjacent. The locomotively steady drum beat, the simple but perfect bass, the light organ peppered in here and there, always at just the right time. This song just gets everything so precisely right.
It’s time to get tender and low key on Little Triggers. It’s a combo of traditional Rn’B, but only a doo-wop away from being a perfect encapsulation of the 50s. And when that turns into the poppy jaunt of You Belong to Me, it’s amazing to think this amazingly eclectic collection of songs has been made by this small band and its pretty limited range of instruments.
Thinking about the limited range of instruments used to make This Year’s Model, (I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea made me suddenly consciously aware of something that had been happening throughout the entire album. Costello’s backing band at the time, The Attractions, are nothing less than awesome. Elvis Costello writes songs that are amazing lyrically dense. Here, The Attractions use nothing more than guitar, bass, drums and organ to musically do justice to those words.
Closing out with Radio, Radio¸ Costello saves the best for last on This Year’s Model. And for an album with so many great tracks, that’s really saying something for just how great Radio, Radio is. Hearing to it in 2015,it’s hard to understand why it got him banned from Saturday Night Live. It’s pretty raw in its energy, but nothing crazy or offensive or marginalising in content.
Listening to Elvis Costello and This Year’s Model, one thing is very clear. I’ve been right to declare my love for his music all these years, albeit a little unearned. Listening to Elvis Costello and This Year’s Model, something else is very clear. I need to dive a whole lot deeper into his discography, because between this album and his countless classic songs that I already know, it’s clear that there’s a whole lot more awesome to be discovered.