Elvis Costello's latest album, Armed Forces, is finally attracting for the spectacled rock singer the attention he deserves.
From the album's opening number, "Accidents Will Happen," to the last cut, "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding," Costello brings rock listeners back to the basics that have seldom been heard since the days of Buddy Holly and Bill Haley.
The English rocker's style was first heard a little more than a year ago, with My Aim Is True, quickly followed by his second album, This Year's Model. Both were hard-driving, musically simplistic albums, whose pluses were rough edges, erased in an editor's mixing booth for most albums.
Armed Forces is Costello at his lyrical best. The rough edges are still there, in polished form. Where Costello has improved is through his lyrics, most of which poke fun at the establishment with biting social satire. Costello takes aim at the military, the structure of the English school system and the awkwardness of those first few dates. He does it with lines like "It's a death worse than fate."
That, coupled with the talents of producer Nick Lowe, who does an excellent job of keeping Costello's rough edges intact, while gleaning them from his back-up musicians The Attractions, make this recently turned Gold album Costello's best.