In helping launch and nurture the punk/New Wave movement in the late Seventies, Elvis Costello unleashed a genuine fusillade of expression in a very short period of time. At a time when it had become increasingly common for artists to take multiple years to produce new albums of original material, the once and future Declan McManus put out three full albums of new songs from 1977 through 1979, proving himself to be as prolific as his band and producer Nick Lowe were proficient.
The second album in a triptych that includes My Aim is True and Armed Forces, This Year's Model is now available in a deluxe two-CD edition, compiling the various b-sides and singles Costello released around this time, as well as a full concert from 1978 with his band The Attractions, co-billed — and appropriately so — for the first time on this album. While the bulk of the miscellaneous material has already seen the light of day via previous reissues, this live recording, all but one selection of which remained heretofore unreleased ("Chemistry Class" from the next album to come, hinting at the eventual bane of Costello's work, an all too clever manipulations of language) reaffirms Elvis' band played as incisively as he composed.
The original British running order of the studio album appears on disc one, now as then different than the truncated American sequencing. Moving on through the "bonus" tracks such as "Tiny Steps" and "Big Tears" suggests any number of variations on the material would've comprised a powerful album. And inasmuch as producer Nick Lowe does his duty by focusing on the stripped down elemental attack of Steve Nieve's keyboards, Bruce Thomas' bass and Pete Thomas' drums, the musicianship hits as hard and deep as lyrics of Costello's such as "Night Rally" and "This Year's Girl."
Political and socio-cultural concerns are no less evident on the live performance that takes up disc two, only comparatively less prominent because Elvis and the Attractions perform seventeen songs edited in rapid fire succession, not unlike how a show of the time proceeded. Elvis & co. are almost but not quite sloppy, rudimentary in their musicianship to be sure, but it's to a musical purpose (it suits the acerbic songs) not to ape the deliberately unskilled fashion of the times. Because the sound quality of the recording is excellent — not surprisingly as it was originally a radio broadcast in early 1978 — it's easy to hear both the focus and the fire from the band, the likes of which matches the eloquence and insight of songs such as "Less Than Zero" and "I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea."
Including additional material taken from the time frame of the original recordings only adds to the commercial and historical value of the Deluxe Edition of This Year's Model, as does the tri-fold layout expanding upon the original graphics right down to a variation on the Columbia label design upon the disc which was first affixed to 7' and 12' vinyl. It says much that the absence of any essays about the artist and his music (included on previous EC archival packages) is rendered absolutely moot by the music: it speaks for itself with vigor and style.