Since his arrival on the music scene in late '77 Elvis (Costello — the other one's dead and gone) has established himself as one of the most competent of the New Wave musicians with this, his third album, realizing the potential displayed by his earlier releases. Voted "Best New Artist" by Rolling Stone in '77, with his second album This Year's Model sweeping the board for critic's awards in England in '78, Armed Forces has a lot to live up to in '79.
It terms of his earlier work Armed Forces is a step up from This Year's Model and four steps up from My Aim is True. The improvement is not only found in the quality of the production. which is handled masterly by Nick Lowe, but also in the complexity and depth of his sound. By a heavier reliance on keyboards, Elvis has added a new appeal and totality to his songs, which is highlighted and backed by crisp, solid drumming and a fluid, running bass.
Lyrically what can I say? His aim is still as true es it has been in the past. Whether he's attacking Fascism and the National Front (an ultra-right-wing political party in England) in "Goon Squad" or harping back upon his favorite subject in Petty Girl," "Busy Bodies" and "Chemistry Class" i.e. the fickle nature of the female form. The highlights of the album must be "Oliver's Army" with its allusion to British mercenaries and catchy lines such as:
It only takes an inch of trigger
One more widow
One less white nigger
Coming in first, equally, is an old Brinsley Schwarz song which has been stripped down, rebored and tuned up to a pitch which is guaranteed to get you up and jumping, and it's called What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding."
Now I know that it's New Wave, I know it's not mellow and laidback, but I think you should bury your cultivated distaste for this new movement and give it a try — who knows, you might like it, and if you don't like it what have you lost (apart from six bucks)?
By the way. he's twice as good live — don't miss him.