Rebirth. I sat listening to the hum in my headphones. Awestruck. Dumbfounded. Elvis Costello's new album had finished playing ten minutes ago, yet I could not rationalize the sense of Revelation, the refreshing bursts of enthusiasm, the feeling I had found something just minutes ago that had been lost for years. Ironic his name should be Elvis, for I see him now as, alongside Springsteen, The Great White Hope of Rock n' Roll.
The songs, "This Year's Girl," "No Action," "Living In Paradise," "Little Triggers," "Radio, Radio." The urgent melodies, the gripping rhythm, the electric guitar, the harmonies, the toughness and the intelligence. The production by Nick Lowe is crisp and perfect to enhance the vitality and presence of the performance. Elvis is out front, and his three-piece band has been stripped down to the essence of Form — the guitar plus bass, drums, and Farfisa organ.
Elvis Costello's minimalist philosophy could spark an architectural restoration of musical form, much the same as removing an Art-Deco facade from a Victorian building. Costello borrows from submerged styles, taking what appeals to his art and discarding the rest. Yet, he is not an imitator. What comes out is very much original, inventive, and multi-dimensional. In his music, Costello pays homage to, and in some places even worships his obvious influences in much the same sense that the Beatles owed a debt to Elvis (Presley) as a groundbreaker and originator of ideas.
All the great influences are there in This Year's Model. Early Beatles. Early Stones. Early Small Faces. Early Who. Traces of the Zombies, ? and the Mysterians, and The Sir Douglas Quintet. A casual tip of the hat to Springsteen and to the New Wave. In the decade where all but a handful of aging rockers have become purveyors of public taste and popular entertainment, This Year's Model stands as a statement of what has been misplaced. Naked metaphors. Honest anger. Disillusion. If This Year's Model is not the best rock 'n' roll album of the seventies, then it surely is the most important.