Funny to see a reviewer (in Sounds, I think - unidentified, anyway) complaining way back in 1977 that Elvis Costello's music is as recycled and recombinational as his name.
Having read Franklin Bruno's book on Armed Forces, it does seem like the m.o. of the Attractions often was to steal riffs and rejigger them, sometimes inverting them - these riffs often sourced in relatively obscure (at least to the New Wave audience's ears) rhythm-and-blues or soul songs, so they could get away with it presumably, or because it was simply their favorite music, or where they could all find common ground as musicians.
But what's interesting is that despite this patchworking of bits and bobs borrowed, the outcome comes across with the force of the New - it's animated by an almost unprecedented spite and vitriol, and by the power of the playing and performance.
The personality, the attitude, revivifies and repurposes all this second-hand material - that's what makes the song jump into the present and leave behind pub rock (a scene, incidentally, characterized by groups doing a lot of cover versions - a break with the progressive ethos of only doing your own material).
Not forgetting the lyrics - the locus of the New here, as in so much New Wave (along with image).
The content changes the form. Charges it up.
The urgency of the subject makes it totally now (meaning 1977 - the 1977 of RAR and ANL)