Certain Songs #399: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “No Action”

elvis-costello-this-years-model Album: This Year’s Model
Year: 1978

“I don’t wanna kiss you, I don’t wanna touch” sings a lonely Elvis Costello from the left speaker, but even before he finishes the line, the whole world has exploded.

Thus begins This Year’s Model, one of all-time greatest punk rock albums which is also a singer-songwriter albums, and one of the all-time greatest singer-songwriter albums which is also a punk rock album.

Not surprisingly, it’s my favorite Elvis Costello album, featuring a series of short sharp shocking songs that are pithy, hooky, angry, funny and so well played it sounds like the the arrangements had been sitting in the universe forever waiting for these guys to find them and present them to the world.

Which is why “No Action” is such a perfect kickoff. After the explosion at the beginning, Elvis & The Attractions rocket towards a punny chorus that is also pure power pop featuring an array of overdubbed Elvises (Elvi?) singing the backing vocals:

There’s no action
(no no no no no no no)
There’s no action
(no no no no no no no)
There’s no action
(no no no no no no no)
There’s no action
Ev’ry time I phone you, I just wanna put you down.

With drummer Pete Thomas cramming fills into crowded spaces and Steve Nieve throwing his keyboard every which way, “No Action” sounds like The Who Sings My Generation if Nicky Hopkins had traded in his piano for Jon Lord’s Hammond B-3.

And when Elvis signals them to stop a couple of minutes in, Pete Thomas is still so amped, he can’t even.

“No Action”

“No Action” performed live in 1978

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