Elvis Costello's debut album in 1977 had him proclaiming that "my aim is true," but it's really with his latest release that he scores the bull's eye.
Costello became somewhat of an overnight cult hero shortly after My Aim Is True hit the market. His position as king of New Wave was fortified about seven months later with the release of This Year's Model, which actually was a continuation of the previous year's goods.
But with Armed Forces, his third album, there is a definite progression in style. The tunes are more melodic and the accompaniment fuller than on the previous two releases. Yet there is no loss of energy flow from Costello and his band, The Attractions.
The only problem on Armed Forces is an occasional lack of clarity in the lyrics. Since his impressive debut, Elvis Costello has been regarded as an angry young singer, whose image is largely based on his cynically satirical lyric content.
He still shoots from the lip, but what with his British accent, the throbbing beat of the band and vocals often filtered through an echo chamber, it's difficult at times to follow the words.
And while the listener does get the drift of Costello's message behind such tunes as "Oliver's Army," "Goon Squad," "Green Shirt" and "Two Little Hitlers," the intricacies of his phraseology that lend irony and humor to his compositions are lost behind the mix.
Producer Nick Lowe would have been hard pressed to avoid this without losing some of the album's color. The simple answer would have been inclusion of a lyric sheet with the record.