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This Year's Model
Elvis Costello

Columbia CK 35331
Released: March 1978
Chart Peak: #30
Weeks Charted: 17

Elvis CostelloElvis Costello looks like a nerd, but he doesn't sound like one at all. He sounds sort of like Bruce Springsteen, actually. But the main thing about This Year's Model, his second Columbia album, is how bright and with-it the whole band sounds as it plays the snappiest, most intelligent rock arrangements since the heyday of Steelye Span. (Although unidentified on the album jacket, the band here is the Attractions, the same group that backed Costello on his first tour.) The songs don't seem all that impressive in themselves, but as the start of a process they apparently work pretty well. Costello's whole idea of a lyric continues to be that it is an assortment of put-downs, but, given that, he's better than some at stringing words together. It's what he does with the beat, though, that I find so fascinating here. The sound is primitive and sophisticated at the same time, and even if you identify with the people Costello whines at in the lyrics, you can't help getting caught up in the rhythms. It will be interesting to see what kind of audience he attracts.

- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 7/78.

Bonus Reviews!

This is a strong followup to last year's My Aim Is True debut LP from this British new wave cult figure. All songs here possess a sparkling, dynamic quality whether it's a driving rocker or slower tempo material. Costello interprets his own wry lyrics with a raw-edged vocal style, and producer Lowe cushions with fine production touches such as riveting keyboard breaks. Above all else there is a tangible energy level that pervades throughout. Best cuts: "No Action," "Pump It Up," "You Belong To Me," "Hand On Hand," "Lip Service," "Radio, Radio."

- Billboard, 1978.

Elvis Costello - This Year's Model
Original album advertising art.
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This is not punk rock. But anyone who thinks it's uninfluenced should compare the bite and drive of the backup here to the well-played studio pub-rock of his debut and ask themselves how come he now sounds as angry as he says he feels. I find his snarl more attractively musically and verbally than all his melodic and lyrical tricks, and while I still wish he liked girls more, at least I'm ready to believe he's had some bad luck. A

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

The American version of this album, Elvis' first with the Attractions, contained "Radio Radio" at the expense of "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea" and "Night Rally." Greil Marcus makes it clear that it is this version he favors, so he must be a fan of "Radio Radio."

The man has good taste. The author notes that he made the cut his Record of the Week on BBC Radio 1 one week while sitting in for Kid Jensen and received no oppostion from executives, who were assured its criticisms of restricted playlists were directed at the American airwaves. "Radio Radio," "Pump It Up" and "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea" were all hit singles in Britain.

Cover photos of US and UK editions differ slightly.

In 1987, This Year's Model was chosen by a panel of rock critics and music broadcasters as the #60 rock album of all time.

- Paul Gambaccini, The Top 100 Rock 'n' Roll Albums of All Time, Harmony Books, 1987.

Costello's second album is dressed in colours of "punk," the distinctive instrumentation and pulse, but its content is slyly aware. There is a frenetic, jerky characteristic in this music that is infectious -- take "Chelsea" for instance which zig-zags cockily through your head, or "Pump It Up" with all the qualities of a sneering punk Bob Dylan. Costello's anger is barely simmering not boiling in his lyrics -- in every line a twist or double meaning.

Sound is robust and elbows its way rudely out of the speakers. Dynamics from the CD are better than those from vinyl and though the bass is powerful it is still far from tight. The electric organ is sufficiently and appropriately penetrating without breaking up.

- David Prakel, Rock 'n' Roll on Compact Disc, 1987.

With this release, Costello had found the backup band suited to his jagged vision and on this recording they underpin him with a dense, driving rock & roll sound that adds to the intensity of the statements, but doesn't necessarily clarify or enhance the fascinating lyrical excursions. With the exception of "Radio Radio," "Pump It Up," "Lip Service," and "No Action," none of the other individual tracks have achieved much recognition, but the overall lyrical involvement with sexual, personally oriented material is fascinating. The bite and acuteness of Costello's overview of male/female relations in the modern world remains compelling. Remastered in 1989, new running time 33:14, with notable overall sonic improvement. A

- Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991.

Backed by his road band, The Attractions, his music becomes harder on the edges, suiting perfectly the bitterness of Costello's best song-for-song set. * * * * *

- John Floyd, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

This Year's Model -- Costello's second album and first with the Attractions -- is Costello's first great album, showcasing spectacular hooks, a delightfully venomous tone and ace songs such as "Pump It Up," Radio Radio" and "The Beat." * * * * *

- Marc Fenton, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

The new wave Cole Porter's amazing follow-up to an amazing debut fetures the Attractions, with their high-energy rhythm section and the incomparable Steve Nieve on keyboards. This blistering indictment of everything and everyone that had gotten in his way includes such brilliant songs dripping with vile as "Radio, Radio," the hard-edged "Pump It Up" and the kinetic "Lipstick Vogue." P.S.: If you pogoed your butt off back in the day, check out the Ryko reissue with extra tunes. * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

His second album and first with his crack backing band the Attractions, This Year's Model is the most "punk" of Costello's records -- not in any I-hate-the-cops sense but in his emotionally explosive writing ("No Action," "Lipstick Vogue," "Pump It Up") and the Attractions' vicious gallop (particularly the psycho-circus organ playing of Steve Nieve). Many of the songs rattle with sexual paranoia, but the broadside against vanilla-pop broadcasting, "Radio, Radio" (a U.K. single added to the original U.S. vinyl LP), better reflects the general, righteous indignation of the album: Costello vs. the world. And Costello wins.

This Year's Model was chosen as the 98th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.

When it comes to affairs of the heart, pop music loves black and white. Songs of love's wonders and the misery of rejection are everywhere, but the shades of gray between love and sex are not as popular. For a start, they do not make great choruses.

Not unless you are a self-proclaimed "bug-eyed monster from the Planet Guilt and Revenge" -- in which case the heart's ugliness, all the hate and harm, the cruelty and betrayal, are fair game. Thus in 1978, Elvis Costello and his new band The Attractions arrived at London's Eden studios to tear viciously away at the fresh scabs of fractured relationships.

Surrounded by cold swirling organs and the heart-pulpating rhythm section of his new band, This Year's Model finds its protagonist at his most scathing. The icily staccato "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea" sees Costello tearing into self-indulgent posers, while the choppy "The Beat" sees him wrestling with the guilt of a meaningless nightclub encounter.

The raging "Lipstick Voyage" is hypnotic, as Pete Thomas' athletic drumming shakes the whole song like a voodoo maraca, while "Pump It Up"'s woozy stomp reflects the desperate and frantic rush of an evening of "assisted insomnia," as Costello euphemistically put it.

Uncompromising and vicious, This Year's Model is no meaningless rant. It cuts deeply, and tellingly, straight to the bone. Revenge and guilt might scare off other songwriters, but among the anger and disgust Costello finds his truth.

- Paul Stokes, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

(2008 Deluxe Edition) More than a decade ago, Elvis Costello announced plans to stop selling his early albums. "People must have them by now if they want them," he reasoned. "What I'd really like to do is delete them and destroy them so they could never come out again. That would be kind of cool. I'm sure I'll change my mind about it."

Guess he changed his mind. In fact, the old git cranks out expanded editions of his early works as fast as he releases new music. That's fine -- everyone should have a copy of This Year's Model, especially if you're a prematurely embittered teen romantic or would like to become one. "No Action," "Hand in Hand," "Lip Service" -- these are some of the snarliest love-is-hell songs ever written.

The pain in these songs is as clearly visible as the wedding ring Costello wears on the album cover. He might play the jaded rake in "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea," but these are the plaints of a kid who fell too hard too fast, who took romantic promises way too seriously and believed more fiercely as he kept getting burned. The music is surprisingly lush and pretty -- the watery acoustic guitar of "Lip Service," the high harmonies in the chorus of "No Action." Yet it's all punk rage, thanks to Pete Thomas' drums and Steve Nieve's cranky organ. (Funny how the most popular song, "Pump It Up," is the one where the vocal is a blur and the drum hook takes the spotlight.)

This year's model of This Year's Model has basically the same bonus tracks as the last reissue. The only new bait is on Disc Two, a rowdy February 1978 live show from Washington, D.C. With rants against the media ("Radio Radio"), the church ("The Beat") and the right wing ("Night Rally"), This Year's Model is the angriest album Costello ever made, yet the songs remain brutally funny, sung with moments of unexpected tenderness ("I told you that we were just good frieeeends," he sings on "No Action") that taught a host of tortured-Irish-guy vocal tropes to the Hold Steady and LCD Soundsystem -- and those moments make the album unforgettable. * * * * *

- Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone, 3/6/08.

His second album -- and first with his crack backing band, the Attractions -- is the most "punk" of Elvis Costello's records. Many of the songs rattle with sexual paranoia, but the broadside against vanilla-pop broadcasting, "Radio, Radio," better reflects his righteous indignation. It's Costello versus the world. And Costello wins.

This Year's Model was chosen as the 121st greatest album of all time in a Rolling Stone magazine poll of artists, producers, critics and music industry figures in Oct. 2020.

- Rolling Stone, 10/20.

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