More than a decade ago, Elvis Costello announced plans to stop selling his early albums. "People must have them by now if they want them," he reasoned. "What I'd really like to do is delete them and destroy them so they could never come out again. That would be kind of cool. I'm sure I'll change my mind about it."
Guess he changed his mind. In fact, the old git cranks out expanded editions of his early work as fast as he releases new music. That's fine — everyone should have a copy of This Year's Model, especially if you're a prematurely embittered teen romantic or would like to become one. "No Action," "Hand in Hand," "Lip Service" — these are some of the snarliest love-is-hell songs ever written.
The pain in these songs is as clearly visible as the wedding ring Costello wears on the album cover. He might play the jaded rake in "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea," but these are the plaints of a kid who fell too hard too fast, who took romantic promises way too seriously and believed more fiercely as he kept getting burned. The music is surprisingly lush and pretty — the watery acoustic guitar of "Lip Service," the high harmonies in the chorus of "No Action." Yet it's all punk rage, thanks to Pete Thomas' drums and Steve Nieve's cranky organ.(Funny how the most popular song, "Pump It Up," is the one where the vocal is a blur and the drum hook takes the spotlight.)
This year's model of This Year's Model has basically the same bonus tracks as the last reissue. The only new bait is on Disc Two, a rowdy February 1978 live show from Washington, D.C. With rants against the media ("Radio Radio"), the church ("The Beat") and the right wing ("Night Rally"), This Year's Model is the angriest album Costello ever made, yet the songs remain brutally funny, sung with moments of unexpected tenderness ("I told you that we were just good frieeeends," he sings on "No Action") that taught a host of tortured-Irish-guy vocal tropes to the Hold Steady and LCD Soundsystem — and those moments make the album unforgettable.