New Wave rock has, by its very nature, escaped catagorization. Ever since the European punk rock craze of a couple of years ago, rock music has undergone a tremendous upheaval of traditional values forcing out old standards and creating a new foundation for more diverse musical techniques. New Wave music is simply music that refuses to be catagorized.
The advent of New Wave has brought a horde of new acts into the rock scene, some good, some extremely bad, yet all original and inventive. Elvis Costello is definitely the best act to arise out of the upheaval, and his recently released third album, Armed Forces, is his most sophisticated and inventive to date.
Elvis Costello (whose name is an obvious dark, grim parody) has put together an album that is so different from anything he has ever done before that it defies catagorization. The cuts "Oliver's Army," "Green Shirt," and "Goon Squad" sum up Costello's feelings on the military which he hates, pities and yet, understands. "Two Little Hitlers" is the strongest, and most angry of his attacks on the armed forces. The chorus screams:
Two little Hitlers will fight it out until
One little Hitler does the other one's will
The song is obviously written from the viewpoint of one man who is caught up in the military game which he refuses to play.
Costello's anger is at its peak in this album, yet his upbeat music belies the fact. Costello has developed his style to the point that the angrier he gets, the happier his music sounds.
Costello is quickly becoming a perfectionist with his music as he has with his lyrics. Armed Forces portrays a sophistication that began on his first album and developed on his second, This Year's Model. Costello does all the guitar work and vocals on the album. This includes multiple backgrounds. His vocals, ranging from tenor to a low baritone, are strong and concise. The background vocals (he will not sing or play guitar with anybody else) are rich in harmony; when he sings with himself, there is never a note in discord, although he sometimes does double and triple voice-overs.
Elvis Costello and his back-up band, the Attractions, have refused to tour the States for months. But Costello has recently moved to New York (he is British) and may resolve his anger with the U.S., treating us to a tour. seems to prepare the States for an oncoming Costello invasion. Included with the album is an Extended player (a disc the size of a 45 but running at 33 rpm, in stereo) providing the buyer with twelve minutes of live music recorded at Costello's rare appearance at Hollywood High last June.