If Woody Allen ever runs out of movie roles he'll always have the Elvis Costello story to fall back on.
He can use his own wardrobe, practice his shy klutz routine and try out some new puzzled expressions.
And the theme music, naturally, will be Costello's new album, This Year's Model (Columbia), which should make the British singer-songwriter as much a leader in the pop music field as Allen is in films.
Born Declan McManus, Costello — a name he took from his mother's side of the family — made his first album, My Aim is True, while working as a computer analyst.
He won a contract with CBS Records by setting up on a streetcorner outside a company convention and impressing the executives.
He also won the attention of most of the nation's rock critics, who picked the album as one of last year's very best, Amid the fuss over punk rock, Costello emerged as someone who combined the strong rock 'n' roll power of punk with serious, intelligent lyrics.
Not to mention a cover photo of an awkward, bespectacled guitarist who resembled Woody Allen or Buddy Holly.
Now Costello is back with This Year's Model, and again it's powerful stuff.
There are some differences, though. The lyrics are more philosophical than personal, dealing with one-to-one communication, deceit, popularity and a handful of other topics in his obscure but intriguing style. In addition, it's not as well paced as My Aim is True. It runs continually at full clip, with arrangements that lean heavily —maybe too heavily — on old organ riffs.
It shows just one side of his personality, but it's a strong side.
Once again production was handled by Nick Lowe, who this year has released his own variation of Costello's style of music, which some are beginning to call Power Pop. Even though Lowe's album, Pure Pop For Now People (Columbia), is comparable to Costello's work, it aims at slightly different goals.
Lowe's lyrics carry the '70s punch — occasionally shocking and often funny — but his tunes are pure middle-of-the-road pop, exquisitely produced. They succeed on many levels.
The song topics run from a funny "tribute" to the Bay City Rollers to the album's key song: "Marie Provost," a nauseating tale about a silent-screen film star based on Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon. Death comes alone in a ratty apartment where her body is mutilated by her dog.
Both albums have had a tremendous impact on critics, and certainly will be ranked among the year's best. How the record-buying public reacts will be one of the year's most interesting stories.