For any of you who were upset a while back because The Dave Clark Five didn't make it over the Beatles, here's good news: Elvis Costello got hacked-off, too. in fact, he just recorded an album...
What? I must have gotten stuck in the time gap there. Elvis Costello, the most financially successful of the American and British New Wave artists, has recently released his second album, This Year's Model. So far, the album has reached number 48 after three weeks on the Billboard chart. His first, My Aim Is True, was the largest selling import of 1977 and led to his current contract with Columbia.
Elvis, whose real name is Declan P. Costello, is an odd person. With a face like an imperfect Buddy Holly clone, he sings and accompanies himself on lead guitar, backed by his band, The Attractions. Attractive they are not, but they provide a sturdy rhythm section for the songs of jealousy, guilt and frustration on Elvis' first album.
On This Year's Model, the lyrics deal with those same themes in such an intelligent manner that they seem less petty than touching. Costello has a wonderful sense of melody and has assimilated his influences, from the Dave Clark Five to the Monkees (how far is that?) quite well. He writes bitter one-liners that beg to be quoted; "I wanna bite the hand that feeds me / I wanna bite the hand so bad," he yells to the music industry in "Radio, Radio."
Only two songs stand out as truly bad on This Year's Model: "Little Triggers" is a neurotic, weepy-sounding ballad and "This Year's Girl" is leaden with a whiny organ and air-hammer beat. The rest of the album is an upbeat sleeper that grows on you. The Farfisa wall-o-noise that carries the melody in place of Costello's guitar inadvertently cuts out the mid-range sound but is annoying on only a few songs.
My real question goes out to the producer Nick Lowe, whose album Jesus of Cool was released in America as Pure Pop for Now People: Did you tell Elvis he couldn't play guitar? Well, his leads sound a lot better than that roller rink organ stuff.