This, Elvis Costello's third album, is important for three reasons: His sneering attitude is toned down in comparison to his first two works. He displays a wider range of melody lines on this work. And because of the first two factors, this may be his best work to date.
Costello opens the set with "Accidents Will Happen," a slow, lulling arrangement which belies a rather nasty lyric in which an individual will accept the blame for a certain accident but is not willing to suffer the consequences of his action.
His armed forces-related songs here include "Senior Service," "Oliver's Army" and "Goon Squad." The first, a keyboard piece, effectively uses echoes and dub-overs to emphasize Costello's voice. The second is a playful snipe at armed forces, and the latter is an upbeat guitar-keyboard-drum arrangement which parodies an adventure-film theme song with its emphatic lead vocal and added chorus harmonies.
The most interesting arrangement on the LP is "Green Shirt." The subdued keyboards in it with drum and bass accents provide the perfect frame for Costello's menacing lyrics.
Costello provides even more entertaining lyrics on three other cuts. In "Party Girl," for example, he plays with the phrase "guilty party girl," emphasizing "guilty party" at times and "Party girl" at others. In "Chemistry Class," he toys with baser wits with the line "You got a chemistry class. I want a piece of your... mind." Finally, "Two Little Hitlers" is Costello's pointed view of a love relationship.
The album's finale, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding," a vocal and instrumental take-off on Springsteen, sums up the new, improved Elvis Costello. His pointed wit is more polished, his tempos are more varied and his sneering vocal is toned-down somewhat with the additions of more harmonies than on his earlier two efforts.