A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that This Year's Model was the second album from Elvis Costello, and the first record he made with The Attractions, who remained his backing band for years. The album contains few references to drugs or violence, and there's more sexual tension than actual sex, but a couple of the sexual images could be considered disturbing. Though Costello's musical influences and talents were vastly farther reaching, he capitalized on the popularity of punk in the late 1970s by adopting an "angry young man" persona early in his career. In keeping with that, the characters that populate the songs are tense and frustrated, and the musical approach -- particularly Costello's sneering vocal delivery -- is edgy and aggressive. Costello is usually praised most for his brilliance as a lyricist, and this album is full of his famously clever wordplay.
What's the story?
Grammy winner and rock 'n' roll Hall of Famer Elvis Costello was one of the most critically acclaimed artists to emerge from the British punk/new wave music scene in the late 1970s, but his music was not easily categorized into either of those pigeonholes. Drawing on his knowledge and appreciation of American country, soul, and rock 'n' roll, Costello infused these various musical ideas with punk attitude to become a new kind of singer/songwriter whom critics have compared to Bob Dylan or even Cole Porter. THIS YEAR'S MODEL, the first album Costello made with The Attractions, marks the beginning of the sound with which he is most identified -- defined by the powerful rhythms of drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Bruce Thomas, Costello's overwrought guitar playing, and Steve Nieve's keyboard pyrotechnics. The album peaked at No. 30 on the Billboard album chart, and yielded some of Costello's best-known songs, including \"Radio Radio\" and \"Pump It Up.\"
Is it any good?
More than 30 years later, This Year's Model is still one of Elvis Costello's best-loved albums, and a few of the songs remain staples of his live performances. The unique sound of this album has held up beautifully. Steve Nieve's acrobatic piano/keyboard tricks, and Costello's provocative songs and singing style, are still more exciting than most modern albums, and Costello continues to be a major influence on other songwriters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the song "Pump It Up," which is often played at sporting events. What do you think this song is about?
In 1978, "Radio Radio" was an extremely irreverent song, because of its indictment of corporate-sponsored entertainment. What's today's "radio"? Do you think the music industry is more open to creativity, or criticism, than it was then?
What do you think about rock 'n' roll artists branching out into other genres, such as country, classical, etc., as Elvis Costello has?
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