Elvis Costello

This Year's Model

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Where My Aim Is True implied punk rock with its lyrics and stripped-down production, This Year's Model sounds like punk. Not that Elvis Costello's songwriting has changed -- This Year's Model is comprised largely of leftovers from My Aim Is True and songs written on the road. It's the music that changed. After releasing My Aim Is True, Costello assembled a backing band called the Attractions, which were considerably tougher and wilder than Clover, who played on his debut. The Attractions were a rock & roll band, which gives This Year's Model a reckless, careening feel. It's nervous, amphetamine-fueled, nearly paranoid music -- the group sounds like they're spinning out of control as soon as they crash in on the brief opener, "No Action," and they never get completely back on track, even on the slower numbers. Costello and the Attractions speed through This Year's Model at a blinding pace, which gives his songs -- which were already meaner than the set on My Aim Is True -- a nastier edge. "Lipstick Vogue," "Pump It Up," and "(I Don't Want to Go To) Chelsea" are all underscored with sexual menace, while "Night Rally" touches on a bizarre fascination with fascism that would blossom on his next album, Armed Forces. Even the songs that sound relatively lighthearted -- "Hand in Hand," "Little Triggers," "Lip Service," "Living in Paradise" -- are all edgy, thanks to Costello's breathless vocals, Steve Nieve's carnival-esque organ riffs, and Nick Lowe's bare-bones production. Of course, the songs on This Year's Model are typically catchy and help the vicious sentiments sink into your skin, but the most remarkable thing about the album is the sound -- Costello and the Attractions never rocked this hard, or this vengefully, ever again.

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