Armed Forces, the third album from Elvis Costello, is a strange disappointment. While it does contain some first class songs the album as a whole sounds strangely uninspired and perfunctory. The musical identity — revolving around tight catchy riffs and clever often witty lyrics — is in evidence here but cannot and does not save the record. To be candid Armed Forces marks a decline in Elvis Costello's career. His beautifully evocative vignettes of adolescent romance and denouement of My Aim is True or the tight often cynical and paranoid rock 'n' roll of This Year's Model has given way to a blander, more mellow sound. It is as if Elvis has not only heard Ronstadt's version of "Allison" but decided to flatter her by copying her mucho West Coast bland smaltz. Musically Armed Forces confirms the rigid limitations of the band. And also Costello's vocal eccentricities have lost their novelty value and in essence an unwelcome distraction on some of the songs. The best pieces on Armed Forces is where Elvis Costello sings about Britain's current environment. On "Sunday Best" and "Mood For Modern" his clever biting lyricism reveals the artistry of which Elvis Costello has, in this past, shown himself to be capable.