Dartmouth College Dartmouth, March 6, 2002

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Costello reissue offers enhancement to classic punk album

Mark Sweeney

During the Golden Age of punk and new-wave music in the late 1970s and early 1980s, many renowned groups like the Clash, Sex Pistols, Talking Heads, Ramones and Cars emerged and found a high degree of success, both commercially and artistically.

However, no artist that originated from that movement has lasted as long and has made as many landmark albums as Elvis Costello.

Recently, Rhino Records released expanded versions of some of Costello's LPs, the most notable of these reissues being his 1978 classic, This Year's Model.

Released in the wake of Costello's stunning debut record, My Aim Is True, This Year's Model expands on the sounds of his first release and produces some of the angriest, most passionate music of Costello's career.

The first track, "No Action," functions as a perfect introduction to the set of songs. It is a tight rocker that is saturated with tension and nervous energy, an attitude that pervades through the entirety of the album.

This Year's Model never loses its momentum and vigor, as Costello and his backing band, the Attractions, blast through every track with a discernable sense of energy and passion.

The centerpiece of the record is the excellent "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea." The song combines a killer bass groove and a terse guitar with some screeching organ.

"Radio, Radio" is another highlight. The tune is a bundle of nervous energy and its anti-establishment lyrics only add to the song's power. Singing such lines as "I want to bite the hand that feeds me" with an almost overwhelming indignant attitude, Costello's songcraft is at its best on this track.

The musical star of the album is the Attractions' organist, Steve Nieve. The high-pitched, shrieking sound of his instrument helps portray a desperate, emotional tone through all the songs. The subsequent contrast between the organ and the moody, agile bass of Bruce Thomas makes for a great sound.

However, Costello's most celebrated attribute is his outstanding ability as a lyricist. In terms of influence, skill and breadth of work, only Bob Dylan can eclipse Costello in his lyrical content.

As a punk, Costello brought a prevailing anger to his songs which is evident This Year's Model. On "Living In Paradise," Costello sings "And now it's much too dangerous to stop what you've begun / When everyone in paradise carries a gun." Such bitter, sardonic lyrics are common on the record, but Costello's intelligence allows for his message to retain its accessibility and power.

On "Little Triggers," the band's slow, gentle music contrasts sharply with Costello's viscous lyrics and vocal delivery, while another great song, "Pump It Up," does not waver at all in its approach as a driving, menacing tune.

Costello largely stays with the sparse, stripped-down sound present on My Aim Is True, but the addition of the Attractions on this record brings an extra hard-edged, punk flavor.

The recently released version of the LP features a bonus disc of 12 tracks to supplement the album. The CD's highlight is "Big Tears," an outtake from the recording sessions for the record that features Clash guitarist and punk legend Mick Jones. In fact, the double-guitar sound provides a nice depth to Costello's composition.

Also included are several demo versions of other tunes like "You Belong To Me" and "Radio, Radio" which appear on This Year's Model, as well as "Greenshirt" and "Big Boys," songs that surface later on Costello's Armed Forces LP.

The bonus disc presents a couple of rare live covers of "Neat, Neat, Neat" and "Roadette Song," both of which do a fine job of providing a glimpse into a Costello and the Attractions concert performance.

As a whole, the extra CD is great for any Costello fan but otherwise inessential to a casual admirer of his work.

Bonus disc or not, Costello's This Year's Model stands as one of the finest records of the punk era and showcases a musical legend at his peak.


The Dartmouth, March 6, 2002

Mark Sweeney reviews the Rhino reissue This Year's Model.


This Year's Model album cover.jpg


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