With the release of This Year's Model and his two shows at Royal Oak Theatre last Saturday, Elvis Costello is proving that he is not only the great rock 'n' roll hope aficionados have anticipated since the beginning of this decade, but he is also demonstrating that he has every reason for becoming the greatest rock performer of any year, place, or time.
The new LP has sold 300,000 copies already, and even the established media is beginning to take note. Geraldo Rivera and ABC News were at Royal Oak to film the concerts. Rolling Stone chose El's debut LP — My Aim Is True — as its album of the year. Upon accepting the British Capitol Award for pop performer of the year, Elton John proclaimed that the award should have gone to Elvis Costello. Not had for a 22-year-old former computer analyst from Liverpool who was virtually unknown less than one year ago.
Costello is much more than pop performer of the year. Since World War II and the dramatic division of the British social system, the "crude" English working class and its "angry young man syndrome has provided the world with some of its greatest literature, theater, black comedy, and rock music. Elvis Costello has perfectly combined the very best elements Of each (even his name is half rock half comedy), and, in doing so, he has once again made rock 'n' roll a crucial art form with crucial things to say to the world.
Beginning with the Fab Four, the English have consistently taken American rock musIC, perfected it, and thrown it back in our face. There was really nothing "new" about the Beatles. All art is derived from past art, and what made them great was that they incorporated everything great about rock from rockabilly to the "girl groups" into their sound. Costello is presently doing the same thing and creating the purest pop sound since the '60s -- the only difference is that he has had fourteen additional years of good things to build on.
Like the first LP, This Year's Model grows greater with each consecutive listen, and it's literally impossible to grow tired of either record no matter how many times they're heard. The best cuts on the record are Side One and Side Two — in other words, every number is brilliant. This isn't just great music, it's classic music. The album marks a new era in rock history, and these are the songs that people will listen to ten years from now the same way we listen to "Gimme Shelter," Sgt. Pepper's and "Johnny B. Goode" today.
That is, we'll listen to them if we still exist ten years from now — and Elvis doesn't seem to think we will. Costello is "Waiting For The End Of The World," as he expresses it in his apocalyptic visionary song. It has been said that truly great rock is judged by how it reflects the times, and Model's cover portrait of Elvis holding a camera in front of his mouth is a perfect symbol — he writes "pictures" of the world as it is right now. Space won't permit me to print his lyrics, but it must be said that the lyrics are poetry that stand on their own.