Washington State University Daily Evergreen, January 24, 1979

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Armed Forces

Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Brent Siewert

The maestro of guilt, revenge and angst is back with his third release, a potent display of anger and frustration.

Every Elvis album is an individual entity: the first was an uneven dance album; the second crystalized the backup band's contributions and then this one slows the tempo a bit, without losing an iota of venom or vengeance.

Costello's career to stardom is paved with rejection and tough breaks, but his little black book of those who wronged him is still around and even CBS, his American label, has a place in it.

And now it appears they are trying to right that wrong: Armed Forces comes with a three-song extended play record featuring a six-minute version of "Watching the Detectives," featuring that eerie organ, "Alison" and "Accidents Will Happen," which also appears, in a superior studio version, on this new album.

Elvis live is a treat. The EP gives one the feeling of his rapid-fire song delivery; as one ends, the drums start pounding out the beat of the next song — no time for applause, just music.

The studio songs, twelve this time, compared to This Year's Model's ten and Aim's thirteen, is Costello's largest and longest album. Apparently the only difference with the English version of the album is the inclusion of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?" a song released in Britain under the label of Nick Lowe (Elvis' producer) "And His Sound." No E.C. vocal credit.

An old Brinsley Schwarz song, "Peace, Love and Understanding" is one of the most upbeat songs on the album, despite its content. Elvis croons and the band (I don't think it's the Attractions) is a tight, cohesive combo.

"Oliver's Army," a side-one stand-out, is a departure of the usual guitar-based melodies Costello is famous for. A rinky-tink electric piano takes over and the lyrics, about a band of mercenaries who will, "if you're not busy, will send you to Johannesburg." It's a biting criticism of the British's intrusion into South African politics and the chorus, "I would rather be anywhere else but here today," is a sharp hook.

Perhaps another reference to "Basher" Lowe, "Two Little Hitlers," is another romance-gone-wrong song. Apparently the narrator has lost in love and now "One little Hitler does the other one's will." Is Elvis down? You should know better. "I will return, I shall not burn. (It's just) A simple game of self-respect."

The other songs are equally intriguing, and upon repeated listening, rewarding.

Tags: Armed ForcesThe AttractionsLive At Hollywood HighWatching The DetectivesAlisonAccidents Will HappenThis Year's ModelMy Aim Is True(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?Nick LoweBrinsley SchwarzOliver's ArmyTwo Little Hitlers

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The Daily Evergreen, January 24, 1979

Brent Siewert reviews Armed Forces.


1979-01-24 Washington State University Daily Evergreen page 05 clipping 01.jpg

Page scan.
1979-01-24 Washington State University Daily Evergreen page 05.jpg


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