This Year’s Model
Pure Pop For Now People
New Boots & Panties
Stiff Records have proven to be experts at gaining a powerful reputation through obscure promotion tactics. Slogans have been the message this company sends; “The Shape of Things to Come,” “We Came, We Saw, We Left,” “If They’re Dead We’ll Sign Em,” “Today’s Music Today” and “Stiff – The World’s Most Flexible Record Company.” Their anti-commercial attitude and quality servitude are essentially the reason for the move to power-pop and resurgent rock ‘n’ roll these artists are procuring. It was at least , Stiff who a year and a half ago decided to market this music, and it added a much needed stimulation to a confusing of sometimes boring music scene.
For legal reasons which are not important here, Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe are no longer with Stiff (distributed by Arista in the U.S.) but on Radar in the U.K. (distributed by Columbia in the U.S.)
Elvis Costello has made history with My Aim Is True. We knew it then and we know it now that there is genius working here. His infectious pop stylized songs and outright rockers have left many reeling in their wake.
This Year’s Model is prime testament to its predecessor. The same angry assault, revengeful in spots, yet pinned with uncanny precision and articulation to gain him the reputation of being one of the best writers this decade has seen; at least in this chapter.
“No Action” is a good example of the biting revenge Costello sings about;
There’s no action
There’s no action
There’s no action
Everytime I phone you
I just wanna put you down…
“This Year’s Girl” is a perfect vision of commercial clad America – that part of it clad in bikini posters of Farrah and Cheryl. The chorus rings of the Beatle’s “You Won’t See Me.” A bit neurotic, as many of his songs are, is “The Beat,” not to detach at all from the intensity. That tension that makes Costello seem like he is singing with a knife in his back is “Pump It Up.” “Little Triggers is perhaps the best tune on the record;
Thinking about all those censored sequences
Worrying about the consequences
Waiting until I come to my senses
Better put it all in present tenses
Little Triggers that you pull with your tongue
I don’t wanna be hung up strung up, when you don’t call up
Side one closes with “You Belong To Me,” its great nuff said. Costello is full of great little surprises, as Side two opens with what sounds like a tape going backwards. “Hand in Hand” is the track that has this twist and the tune again rings of 1965 Beatles – its too much “Lip Service” too, could be the bst tune on the record. “Living In Paradise” has the same qualities to it that made “Watching The Detectives “ so happening on My Aim Is True. Heavy on the cynicism, unresistable arrangement
I called you Betty Fellon
Cause you are a pretty villain
And I think I should tell ‘em
that you’d make a pretty killin
Cause meanwhile up in heaven
they are waiting at the gate
Said we always know you were comin
Didn’t think you’d come this late
“Lipstick vogue” and then the Costello anthem against the propagation of the airwaves. “Radio Radio,” to finish this fabulous album. Costello has said in the press that he will not stay around to witness his artistic decline. This Year’s Model makes it unlikely that he or anyone else will have to witness that for some time.
There is a basic, bedrock trademark of Nick Lowe’s brand of rock ‘n’ roll that is as practical and satisfying as the hamburger. Pure Pop For Now People is Lowe’s first american album (amazingly enough) as well as his first album under his own name (more amazing!). (For a complete history, see Eggz – March 21, 1978). Dave Edmunds is on it, so are Bob Andrews and Martin Belmont of the Rumour. The indomitable spirit of musicians like this, especially when working with an inspiration like Nick Lowe, has produced a record that crosses all lines of the pop music idiom, all of which are costumed by Lowe in six photos on the cover.
Lowe emphasises power production in the studio. His production on this, as well as his other projects (Costello’s My Aim Is True and This Year’s Model and Graham Parker’s albums and more), is not well refined in terms of slickness, but Lowe likes it that way. That may be something that doesn’t lean heavily into Lowe’s favor – it is sometimes hard to understand what he is singing, but don’t let it bother you.
Nick Lowe is the one to undermine this whole power-pop scene with tunes like “Marie Provost,” “Nutted By Reality” and “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass.” Both Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello have consolidated a tremendous amount of energy into songs that barely touch four minutes – a constructed energy which separates it from the explosive energy of punk rock. It is to Costello’s advantage that he do it in a more clever fashion. Total respect to Mr Lowe cause he is the match to light the fire. To quote a cohort; “Nick Lowe is the really happening guy”
Rather than sing songs about tender love etc, Ian Dury chooses to sing about his prick. Women, he propesizes will have to “learn to accept the purity and depth of my disdain” Profound statements coming from a small runt from Essex, whose close cropped hair and bugged stare make him look like Peter Lorrie.
Dury’s music is really quite intriguing, even though his band is a bit subordinate. Most of the tunes move along at a pace that can be likened to the pop flavor of a band like Fleetwood Mac. Tunes like “My Old Man” and “Partial to Your Abracadabra.” Dury’s got a candid air about his, on stage (At Buff State, April 28) he is apparently a lot of fun. New Boots and Panties is an album that is sort of funny especially with songs like “Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Someone had to do a song with that title and Dury does it better than anyone could have, at least he is convincing.
Dury’s preoccupation with sex is the general theme of the album. But coming from a man like him can only make it something you would definitely sing along with. New Boots and Panties is a great record.
All this energy we talk about on Stiffs Live will blow you away. Other than those three aforementioned individuals comes two other Stiff artists Wreckless Eric and Larry Wallis. Live versions of “Sex and Drugs and Rock n’ Roll,” Elvis does a version of Burt Bacharach’s “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself,” that is truely amazing. “Miracle Man” by Elvis and “Police Car” by Larry Wallis are killers.
Live recordings, expecially with this music are a magic ingredient in experience the power and adulation of it. If you are gonna listen to the studio version, you have to hear the live versions, and more importantly you must see the live performances of these artists when they visit Buffalo in the coming weeks.
Before it gets too far ahead of you, listen to any, preferably all of these albums, because you don’t know rock n’roll if you don’t channel these basic ingredients. All these musicians give us that and much more.