Elvis Costello And the Attractions (1979)
By the end of the 70s, singer-songwriting had deviated too much from the standard Plastic Ono Band model: it was too navel-gazing, esoteric and saccharine. Out of nowhere, Elvis Costello emerged to set things right by attacking the style from all sides with outstanding quality. He pushed it into the age of new wave with this masterpiece, integrating phenomenal pop-art synth, bass, drum and guitar parts with his distinctive vocals to deliver typically bitter, witty vignettes, allegories and put-ons. It was impeccably hooky, effortlessly stylish, awesomely irreverent, and yet somehow still tasteful and honest. Great stuff. The unfairly marginalized cover of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?” is not optional, though it’s sometimes relegated to being a bonus track. It’s just another outstanding song that concludes an incredibly smart LP which pointedly contrasts romance and warfare.
Key track: “Big Boys”
See also: My Aim Is True – Elvis Costello (1977), This Year’s Model – Elvis Costello (1978), Get Happy!! – Elvis Costello (1980), Trust – Elvis Costello (1981), Imperial Bedroom – Elvis Costello (1982)