Daily Record 2/1/11: This Year’s Model-Elvis Costello & the Attractions (1978)

In 1970s, 1978, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, new wave, rock on February 1, 2011 at 7:04 pm

This Year’s Model, Elvis Costello’s second album (and his first with the Attractions) is rightly considered to be one of the best albums released in 1978 and probably one of the best for the years surrounding ’78 as well. This Year’s Model fulfilled the promise of Costello’s ’77 debut, My Aim Is True, and was just the kind of spiky, angry, organ-drenched rock’n’roll record that we all needed at the moment that disco was exploding all over the place and progressive rock was feeling bloated and self-indulgent.

In addition to all that, This Year’s Model just rocks, containing one early EC classic after another, including “Pump It Up,”  a song that has now become a part of the classic rock canon that Costello may have been appearing to revolt against back in ’78.

With all that going for it, I have to admit that, within the context of Rich’s House of Vinyl, I’m finding  I don’t have much to say about This Year’s Model.

Make no mistake: I love this record. Love the lyrics. Love the music. Love the squiggly keyboard lines courtesy of Steve Nieve. Love that Costello not only used the word “anesthetize” in the song “Radio Radio,” but that it rolls off his tongue like he sings “anesthetize” in every song he’s ever written.

Love the fact that Elvis got in some trouble playing “Radio Radio” on Saturday Night Live and that the Beastie Boys helped him recreated that moment decades later.

But, even with all this love, I need to admit something: This Year’s Model glided right by me in 1978. I’ve got no memory of hearing anything from this album on the radio at the time (well, maybe “Pump It Up”) and never felt an inkling to go out and buy the record.

Maybe I was too busy listening to two other 1978 albums I’ve covered in this blog so far: Gerry Rafferty’s City to City and Blondie’s Parallel Lines.

Costello did get my attention with the release of his third album, Armed Forces, the following year. But that’s the story of Armed Forces, not This Year’s Model.

One of the great things about music (and any art form, really), though, is that once a work has been released, it’s always there for those of us who missed it the first time around. So I missed This Year’s Model by a few years, but I eventually caught up to it. Then there’s my nephew Mike, who missed the album by virtue of the fact that he was born ten years after its release, but is catching up with Costello’s vast catalog one piece at a time (sometimes on vinyl!).

So really, This Year’s Model can be any year’s model.


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