More than a decade ago, Elvis Costello announced plans to stop sellinghis early albums. “People must have them by now if they want them,” hereasoned. “What I’d really like to do is delete them and destroy them sothey could never come out again. That would be kind of cool. I’m sureI’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 hereleases new music. That’s fine — everyone should have a copy ofThis Year’s Model, especially if you’re a prematurely embittered teenromantic or would like to become one. “No Action,” “Hand in Hand,” “LipService” — these are some of the snarliest love-is-hell songs everwritten.
The pain in these songs is as clearly visible as the weddingring 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 kidwho fell too hard too fast, who took romantic promises way too seriouslyand believed more fiercely as he kept getting burned. The music issurprisingly lush and pretty — the watery acoustic guitar of “LipService,” the high harmonies in the chorus of “No Action.” Yet it’s allpunk 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 thevocal 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 thelast reissue. The only new bait is on Disc Two, a rowdy February 1978live show from Washington, D.C. With rants against the media (“RadioRadio”), the church (“The Beat”) and the right wing (“Night Rally”),This Year’s Model is the angriest album Costello ever made, yet thesongs remain brutally funny, sung with moments of unexpected tenderness(“I told you that we were just good frieeeends,” he sings on “NoAction”) that taught a host of tortured-Irish-guy vocal tropes to the Hold Steady and LCD Soundsystem — and those moments make the albumunforgettable.