Thursday, January 26, 2006

Elvis Costello - This Years Model


Elvis Costello emerged from Britain in 1977 and he was lumped in with the punk movement enveloping the country at the time, probably because he wrote cynical, edgy and very wordy songs sung with an anger, fury and intelligent bite that few of the punks could actually match. He wasn’t a punk though, he was much more ambitious than that and armed with an almost encyclopedic knowledge of pop music history he made his mark from the start.

His debut My Aim Is True is a good record but it pales in comparison to This Years Model in my opinion. A large part of it has to do with Elvis having his own band the Attractions backing him instead of a country rock outfit from California as was the case for his debut. They blast their way through this album providing a firm foundation for some of the best songs Elvis ever wrote with Steve Nieve providing really great keyboard parts with Pete Thomas and Bruce Thomas (not related) a propulsive rhythm section. Produced by label mate Nick Lowe who would go on to produce the next four albums also this is a very basic recording with minimal overdubs and no fat in the arrangements. I remember having a disagreement with a boss of mine who thought these early albums sounded like demos to him and I of course didn’t agree at all. He had a gold record of the first Berlin album hanging on his office wall so maybe that had something to do with it! He was a co-manager of the band almost until the point they recorded their debut and told me a few interesting stories about the early days of the band that I will write about in the future. Sorry about the short detour and on with the show.

Here is a “love” song from Elvis called Lipstick Vogue. You can see why his next album was originally going to be called Emotional Fascism! Plus the outtake called Big Tears with Mick Jones of The Clash on guitar. God knows why it wasn't on the album.

Many people consider Elvis to be up there with Bob Dylan as a songwriter. That is debatable, but the interesting thing about both of them is....they never sold many records. Costello only has a few gold records in the U.S., Spike and Armed Forces are a few of them to reach that status. While everyone thinks Dylan sold many records the fact is not as many as his stature would lead you to believe. Talent has nothing to do with record sales as the last decade or so has made abundantly clear.

Buy it here.
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