Monday, May 12, 2008

No. 482: Armed Forces

Band: Elvis Costello and the Attractions
Album: Armed Forces
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: "Armed Forces" is one of Elvis Costello's great early albums, stoking political fires and using a very, very obscene word on "Oliver's Army."
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I'm generally happy with this placement. It's a fine album and Costello deserves his due.
Best song: "Oliver's Army" is great.
Worst song: "Busy Bodies" isn't great.
Is it awesome?: Sure.

"Armed Forces" is the final of Elvis Costello's albums on this list. Gaining three albums on the list, he's treated with the same respect as Black Sabbath, Big Star, Marvin Gaye and Tom Waits.

With that said, Costello's new wave staccato and posturing rock act likely hit its early apex on 1979's "Armed Forces." The record is decidedly political -- "Two Little Hitlers," "Senior Service," and "Oliver's Army" all snap at the British establishment -- and Costello's voice is distinct and clever. "Oliver's Army," a class-warfare anthem, is brilliant and sharp and the Attractions are at their best.

The U.S. release of the album includes one of Costello's most popular tracks, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding." The Nick Lowe-penned track remains a hit and is intimately fun.

Much of the album runs together as Costello's guitar work was never the stuff of legends, but the album's tone is clever and worthwhile. It's one of his best.

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