Boston Globe, January 25, 1979

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Armed Forces

Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Thomas Sabulis

For shame, for shame. None of Elvis Costello's three albums has even been certified gold in sales; yet nobody since Bruce Springsteen has released three superlative rock albums consecutively. Now Elvis Costello has. He does one thing better than anyone today, with the possible exception of Mick Jagger and the McGarrigle sisters, and that's sing the English language. His phrasing, scansion, rhyme schemes, non sequiturs are just part of what makes Armed Forces so good, if not quite as good as his previous two records (My Aim Is True, This Year's Model). It doesn't have the overall rhythmic flair of the former or the jumping consistency of the latter. On at least one occasion, "Goon Squad," the album drags. But mostly the juxtaposition of lyrics with the plangent music of the highly-competent Attractions is marvelous. "Oliver's Army," for example, sounds like a lover's holiday until you discern the words: "There was a Checkpoint Charlie / He didn't crack a smile / But it's no laughing party / When you've been on the murder mile / All it takes is one itchy trigger / One more widow one less white nigger." And only Costello, it seems, could write a hoping-for-love song called "Chemistry Class" "I want a piece of your mind / You don't know what you started when you mixed it up with mine." Some say he's not accessible. But when he closes the album with "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding?" a strong, modest rock number, one feels this dark, moody figure people like to call the new "king" is a step closer to, yes, being understood. The problem isn't his lack of accessibility. It just takes time to listen to him. Only in his case, time is not money.

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The Boston Globe, March 30, 1979


Thomas Sabulis reviews Armed Forces.

Images

1979-01-25 Boston Globe, Calendar page 13.jpg
Page scan.

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