Elvis Costello must be the only rock musician in the world who relies on anger and vindictiveness to keep him going. His latest release, This Year's Model, (Columbia) is driven by spite, fueled by animal energy and supported by the manic personality of one of the most successful musicians to emerge from new wave music.
Model surpasses the earlier Costello release, My Aim Is True (which was Rolling Stone's Album of the Year.) The fusion of Costello's guttural vocals and the frenetic instrumentals of his band, the Attraction, form a tight, clean sound much in the character of mid-sixties English pop.
From the initial sounds of the album, (Costello's almost whispered, "I don't wanna kiss you, I donna wanna touch.") the listener is grabbed mercilessly by Costello's itchy fingers. That first number, "No Action" is but the first in a series of songs on Elvis's favorite subject: stupid, mindless women.
Topics are "This Year's Girl," a thumbnail description, complete with a mention of "those disco synthesizers," and "Little Triggers," written and performed in a softer vein similar to "Alison" from My Aim is True.
Among the outstanding cuts on This Year's Model are "Hand in Hand," which opens the second side, and "Radio, Radio," the LP's closing number.
"Hand in Hand" has a strong melodic line which is reinforced by the tightness of Costello's backing musicians. The vocals are dominant, however, with excellent harmony.
The culmination of the album is clearly "Radio, Radio." The lyrics and vocals are the key to the success of this forceful, biting putdown of radio in general. After all, who could argue with lines like "I want to bite the hand that feeds me. I want to bite it so bad ... I'll make them wish they'd never seen me."
Special credit for the album's overall success should be given to Producer Nick Lowe. Lowe, who has recently been opening Costello's concerts, is no lightweight musically. In fact, his own current release may give Costello some competition in a "best of the new wave contest."
With so much media acclaim, (everyone from Newsweek to New Times has featured articles on him) the question is, which direction will the nearsighted woman hater take, musically? Costello has admitted on numerous occasions that current rock more or less bores him. Perhaps now that he has become more than a cult object, a slight change in style may be in the making.