At age 16, in a musty record store attic, I purchased my first vinyl copy of This Years Model for $2. I had never heard a note of Elvis Costello's music, but I recognized his name, checked the copyright date (1978!) and was instantly attracted to the geeky but cool aesthetic of the cover photo. My turntable at the time, a pathetically cheap hand-me-down, was unable to play at a volume much above a whisper. Yet, with my ear pressed to the speaker, in Costello's frantic energy and lover's scorn I recognized a kindred spirit. He wasn't so much angry as pissed off and reflective.
Led by Steve Nieve's sharp edged organ lines, the Attractions' reckless energy is perfectly suited to Costello's breathless delivery. The whole album teeters on the verge of combustion. "No Action," immediately lets the listener know just where we're headed, as Costello spits "I don't wanna kiss you. I don't wanna touch/ I don't wanna see you 'cause I don't miss you that much." Ouch.
Halfway through side two, in the second verse of "Lip Service," Costello buries one of the best kiss-off lines in history:
"Don't act like you're above me/just look at your shoes."
So pissy. So perfect.
Witness the band's riotous attitude during their U.S. TV debut on Saturday Night Live. Scheduled to play My Aim Is True's "Less Than Zero," Costello chose to stop the song after only a few bars and instead broke into the then unreleased "Radio, Radio," reportedly much to the chagrin of the suits at both SNL and the record company.
A week later, I went back to that musty attic and picked up My Aim Is True. But that's another story...
Elvis Costello - Lip Service
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