Elvis Costello is the first "new wave" artist to achieve any measure of lasting recognition, with his work on the album My Aim Is True helping him earn Rolling Stone's New Artist of the Year Award. But Elvis isn't isn't a punk at all, and that fact is brought out in his latest release, This Year's Model.
The new album is more musically sophisticated than My Aim Is True, sounding less like a Fifties throwback. It is certainly much more sophisticated than that of any punk group. This Year's Model is also more of a band-oriented album than Elvis' earlier one, with a great deal of input from his band, the Attractions.
What makes Elvis Costello so different is his attitude. He is, to put it mildly, very cynical. This outlook is at times funny, at times eye-opening, and occasionally irritating, but it is certainly unique.
The song "Living in Paradise," for example, is a showcase for Costello's leering vocals. His voice is literally oozing with sarcasm when he sings, "Here we are living in paradise, living in luxury... now it's much too dangerous to stop what you've begun, everyone in paradise carries a gun."
Perhaps the best song on the new album is "Radio, Radio," a straight-forward put-down of the radio industry and the control it wields over just what we hear. Elvis sings, "The radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools trying to anesthetize the way that you feel. You either shut up or get cut out, they don't want to hear about it, it's only inches on the reel-to-reel."
This Year's Model is a very good album for those who can appreciate Elvis Costello's style. The music is good rock and roll but the vocals are sharp and critical, leading to a very unconventional sound. For those who are interested, Elvis will also be appearing at the Orpheum on May 4.