Friday, March 16, 2018

Two To Tumble

On March 17, 1978 Elvis Costello released his second album, This Year's Model. It would be selected as the best album of the year by the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critics Poll, topping releases by Nick Lowe, The Rolling Stones, Talking Heads and the Clash.

To these ears, This Year's Model is a dramatic departure from the straight ahead pub rock of My Aim Is True. And I'm frankly surprised that Costello doesn't share songwriting credit with the musicians who helped him invent this sound, The Attractions. Listen to Steve Nieve's keyboards  on "The Beat", Bruce Thomas's bass on "Pump It Up" and Pete Thomas's drums on "Lipstick Vogue".  Could Costello have really brought this much life to songs with a guitar and a cassette player?

This is a tight, punchy band who brought road tested into London's Eden Studios where they bashed out the album in eleven days. Costello is snarling. His lyrics are bitter takes on romantic angst. If you had to pick one Elvis Costello album to own, this would be it.

A few other takes.

Robert Christgau :

Anyone who thinks it's uninfluenced ( by punk)  should compare the bite and drive of the backup here to the well-played studio pub-rock of his debut and ask themselves how come he now sounds as angry as he says he feels. I find his snarl more attractively musically and verbally than all his melodic and lyrical tricks, and while I still wish he liked girls more, at least I'm ready to believe he's had some bad luck.

From Rolling Stone:

This Year's Model is the most "punk" of Costello's records -- not in any I-hate-the-cops sense but in his emotionally explosive writing ("No Action," "Lipstick Vogue," "Pump It Up") and the Attractions' vicious gallop (particularly the psycho-circus organ playing of Steve Nieve). Many of the songs rattle with sexual paranoia, but the broadside against vanilla-pop broadcasting, "Radio, Radio" (a U.K. single added to the original U.S. vinyl LP), better reflects the general, righteous indignation of the album: Costello vs. the world. And Costello wins.

From  Paul Stokes's 1001Albums You Must Hear Before You Die:

Uncompromising and vicious, This Year's Model is no meaningless rant. It cuts deeply, and tellingly, straight to the bone. Revenge and guilt might scare off other songwriters, but among the anger and disgust Costello finds his truth.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Wasn't It Fabulous

On March 17, 1978 punk rock's most unabashedly commercial band, Generation X, led by the peroxide bleached Billy Idol released their debut album. The cover shot is by Gered Mankowitz, who was also responsible for The Rolling Stones's Between The Buttons. Here was a punk band that actually admitted they loved The Beatles and The Stones.

Outside of the U.K. #47 single, "Ready Steady Go", and the six minute Bob "Derwood" Andrews guitar raver, "Youth Youth Youth", that closes the album I'm not hearing how this record wound up on the Village Voice's Pazz and Jop Critics Poll that year ( albeit at #29 out of 30 ). 

One more Generation X album would follow before Idol released an EP that predicted a solo career was next. It's title: Dancing With Myself. 

Robert Christgau gave the album a B+ grade, writing:

This band's notorious commitment to pop is evident mostly in surprising harmonies and song structures--musically, they're not trying to be cute. And although as singles "Your Generation," "Ready Steady Go," and "Wild Youth" never knocked my socks off, they're the nucleus of a tough, consistent, inventive album. Who said punk rock was dead?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Deal to Disappear

From 1978, some ridiculously catchy power pop from Jules and the Polar Bears whose debut album on Columbia, Got No Breeding, was a critical fave. "Jules" is the prolific songwriter Jules Shear ( Cyndi Lauper's "All Through the Night", The Bangles's "If She Knew What She Wants")  who would be romantically involved with Aimee Mann and from 1989 to 1991 host MTV's Unplugged series.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Swing It Sugar

Rick James : You And I (album version)

On March 16, 1978 multi-instrumentalist punk funkster Rick James released his first single for the Gordy label, the US R+B #1 smash "You And I".  James had come along way from his days in The Mynah Birds with Neil Young, Bruce Palmer ( Buffalo Springfield) and Goldie McJohn (Steppenwolf). Signed to Motown, the corn-rowed performer would release his first album, the million selling Come Get It later in 1978. He's have a good four year run culminating with "Super Freak" in 1981.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Perspex Window Panes

"I try to make people fink." 
-Poly Styrene

In March of 1978, X Ray Spex released their second single, the U.K. #23 "The Day The Earth Turned Day-Glo". Six months after "Oh Bondage Up Yours", Poly Styrene is again belting out a song about commercialism run amuck.

I clambered over mounds and mounds
 Of polystyrene foam
 And fell into a swimming pool
 Filled with fairy snow 

Little did she know day-glo fashions were on their way back. By the mid 80's grown men were wearing Izod shirts and cargo pants the color of neon vomit.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sweet And Heady

On March 11, 1978  the English singer Elkie Brooks's rendition of "Lilac Wine" peaked in the UK charts at #16. Brooks had once sung alongside Robert Palmer in a progressive rock band called Vinegar Joe. Her biggest U.K. hit was 1986's "No More The Fool". Brooks is the only singer to have a hit with "Lilac Wine". Other well known versions are by  Nina Simone and Jeff Buckley, who covered the song on Grace

Friday, March 9, 2018

Some Kinds of Pride

On March 10, 1978 The Buzzcocks released their debut album, Another Music in a Different Kitchen. The Manchester quartet has  often been heralded as one of the era's great singles band, which is why their compilation,  Singles Going Steady, is  an essential album in any rock fan's collection. But digging deeper into their albums is also quite rewarding, especially their first one.

Recording at Olympic Studios, the band was in high spirits as they recorded songs they'd been playing live for months.

"What you hear is what we did," guitarist Steve Diggle tells Mojo. "But (producer Martin Rushent)  was great to work with. We'd record three backing tracks for each song, choose the best, and there was none of this 'We'll get it right in the mix' attitude. It wasn't overproduced yet it still sounded unique."

Among the three minute hook-filled songs about relationships and fast cars, there's a seven minute percussive number called "Moving Away from the Pulsebeat"  that may be anticipating Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow.

The UK#55 single "I Don't Mind" and "Autonomy" would both wind up on Singles Going Steady.

Naturally, all of us in the US missed out on The Buzzcocks, but 40 years later we can finally get on board. This is a definitive band that burned bright and burned fast. Three albums in 18 months!