Behold. Here is a man who is not content. Armed Forces, his third album in less than 1½ years, is a masterpiece. Don't be turned off by the title or the album cover: this is pop-rock (no, not punk rock) at its best.
Gone is the slashing guitar with it's primitive (yet also wonderful) wiry, twangy sound. Instead, Costello's urgency is backed by a majestic, full melodic sound. Elvis borrows riffs from the Doors, codas from the Beatles and harmonies from the Beach Boys. Still, these arrangements and his phrasing and voice inflections are uniquely his own. These songs thrive on paranoid humor — just look at the song titles: "Goon Squad," "Moods for Moderns," "Two Little Hitlers," etc. He doesn't just poke fun at people, he rolls heads into baskets.
The LP closes with a devastating Nick Lowe rocker, "(What's so Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding." The performance shocks us back to the reality that the humor is serious stuff. Five or six of these songs are definitely Top 40 hits.