Lafayette College Lafayette, February 9, 1979

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Armed Forces

Elvis Costello

Joe Natiello

The unique thing about Elvis is that he is able to combine his often bizarre political and social views with a knack for making powerful and energetic rock 'n' roll. Like his second LP, This Year's Model, Armed Forces is a theme album that deals with the increased dehumanization and mechanization of society that results from people trying to conform and find their own little niche in today's "me" generation. Elvis labels this trend "emotional fascism," and rather than mourn the movement away from individuality, he delivers a scathing attack on this prevalent attitude of the 70s. This outlook dominates a song like "Mood for Moderns," while "Two Little Hitters" suggests that people desire conformity in lifestyle and thus create plasticized mass media stars to reflect an idealized image, just as the German people created their Hitler out of a need for charismatic leadership. In "Accidents Will Happen" and "Green Shirt," Elvis reveals a Stones-like disdain for women who are emotionally devoid of feeling and thus increasingly curb his real attempts at reaching out for love. He calls for a return to traditional values in the album's finale, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding," a possible contrast between the tone of the 60's vs the 70's. The music here is filled with urgency and Elvis's vocal style expresses real tenseness and sometimes even fear. The final result is a mixed one, since rock music does not always work well as a vehicle for airing such vehement attitudes, and the music sometimes tends to take a back seat. Elvis Costello is an artist who needs time to be understood and appreciated, and although Armed Forces does seem a bit vague after one screening, a few more tries should give the listener a chance to judge the album on its merits.

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The Lafayette, February 9, 1979


Joe Natiello reviews Armed Forces.

Images

1979-02-09 Lafayette College Lafayette page 05 clipping 01.jpg
Clipping.

1979-02-09 Lafayette College Lafayette page 05.jpg
Page scan.

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