A seething slow-dance buried in an album of defiant punk rock, “Little Triggers” is the sound of love’s death from 1000 paper cuts.

Welcome back to The Elvis Costello Song Of The Week®, our ongoing attempt to drive you ever-deeper into the catalog of the musician who most embodies the Trunkworthy mission.

The week’s pick: “Little Triggers,” from This Year’s Model  (1978)

Gary Stewart: It seems counterintuitive that any song from This Year’s Model could be underexposed, especially in the strange universe that is Trunkworthy.  But “Little Triggers” fits the bill. I took it for granted when the album hit in 1978, which is when I (and the world) first heard the Elvis Costello & The Attractions sound I loved: aggressive, poppy, and confrontational. Coming in between “Pump It Up” and “You Belong to Me” on side one felt out of place — a slow number amongst angry rockers (my oversimplification at the time). But it turns out I missed one of the best soul ballads Solomon Burke never covered, and that’s more than enough cause for repentance.

It wasn’t until recently that I paid close attention to the lyrics. I noticed that each verse had him rhyming four words in a way that would even challenge Sammy Cahn. And it’s not just about cleverness or even craft; it’s how it feels. You’ve been there: stuck in a relationship, knowing there’s no way you’re getting out of this thing alive or without serious damage.

This Year’s Model made me a Costello convert when it came out. It had all the anger I liked from punk rock, the smarts of the best music punk wasn’t trying to make extinct, and the best of the few things I was connecting with in my record collection, but I rarely listen to it anymore—except for this song. These days, I spend more time with Costello’s last ten years looking for songs like this one, which are hiding in plain slight.

David Gorman: I had a pretty strange relationship with this song as well. I’ll admit that when I was really digging into This Year’s Model I was too young to grasp most of what matters about it. I was sucked into its surface thrills of energy, melody, snappy rhymes, weirdo organs, and palpable anger, which I identified with on a visceral level—even if I wasn’t world-wise or self-aware enough to know what any of it meant.

“Little Triggers” was the album’s breather, a little break in the musical storm,. But for a kid who always sought comfort in sad, slow tunes, I heard it as the album’s heart. Let’s be clear: Given my lack of experience with romantic relationships at the time, the song might as well have been sung in Swahili, but its desolate mood , Elvis’ cracking voice, and the doo-wop harmonies buried deep in the mix instantly connected with all the loss and confusion I’d experienced up to that point.

Eventually, I grew into the lyrics and related to them. It’s funny (or sad) that Costello was much younger when he wrote this song than I was when I finally understood it, which is either a testament to his gifts as a songwriter or my emotional immaturity. Either way, this song occupies a rare space for me, like the Charlie Chaplin films I first fell in love with as a little kid but didn’t appreciate until I was an adult. “Little Triggers” grew up with me, revealing its meaning when I was ready to understand it.

PS: Slap on your headphones and listen closely to the very end of the song. You’ll hear Elvis let out a soft, falsetto whimper that cracks in just the right spot. It’s all the broken pride of the song distilled into a single breath. Perfection.

Another Elvis Costello Song Of The Week, another song added to our Elvis Costello Song Of The Week playlist. Enjoy.