Costello's second album, This Year's Model, took the potential shown in 1977's classic My Aim Is True and ran with it. Elvis Costello's punk sensibility, melodic yet tight guitar, and sharp political commentary was now paired to a great backing band, the Attractions (Steve Nieve on keyboards, Bruce Thomas on bass, and Pete Thomas on drums). Far from a sophomore slump, This Year's Model might be Costello's best release, and has probably aged better than anything else he's done.
In punk fashion, Costello's songs are short and forceful, hovering right around 2-3 minutes. However, don't expect Clash or Sex Pistols-like aggression and buzzing guitars. Costello's early work is about as "rock 'n' roll" as one can get--melodic, tuneful, and irresistable. Costello's acerbic and humourous lyrics comment on a great many things--the fashion industry on This Year's Girl, Orwellian paranoia on Living In Paradise, and a pan of commercial radio on Radio, Radio (made famous by Elvis Costello's controversial guest spot on Saturday Night Live).
If you can enjoy Costello's quirky vocals (I happen to really like them) than This Year's Model will definitely have appeal. Punkers looking for something different will probably really like this album. His other early albums (My Aim Is True, Armed Forces) are in a similar vein and also worth purchasing.
Note: For the most part the Rhino reissue is really nice, with great liner notes penned by Elvis himself and one of the best remasters I've heard in recent years. However, was the bonus disk really necessary? Big Tears and Stranger In The House could have been included on the first disk as bonus tracks, while the rest of the bonus material is made up of middling demos and live stuff that is only of interest to completists. All the bonus disk does is jack up the price of the album. Not a big deal, but more thought should've been put into this.