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Customer Review

52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a 24 year old Elvis contemplates domination and conquest, December 2, 2002
This review is from: Armed Forces (With Bonus Disc) (Audio CD)
Armed Forces represents an early high point to Elvis and the Attractions' late-70's progression and development. On this disc, Costello is fully mining the vein of what he had referred to as "Revenge and Guilt" song subject manner while filtering it all through the framework of a fascination he had with the topics of fascism and control. A good share of the songs either directly or indirectly feature characters or situations where corporate, military or social shackles "force" someone into doing something to someone else--usually something quite nasty. Lyrical tidbits of profound dark humor and twisted verbal brilliance are to be found all over the place in this strong set of like-minded songs. Examples include "It's a death that's worse than fate" or "They took me in the office and they told me very carefully the way that I could benefit from death and disability" (Senior Service)-or how about "Now you've given your performance/though the matinee was idle/ and you're finding that a wave of her right hand could seem so tidal" (Busy Bodies).

Though the musical stylings are still roughly defined by what became known as the 'New Wave' sound, this disc is more informed by the sounds of then-contemporary US AM radio than any other Costello disc. One cause of this was the AM radio in the station wagon the Attractions used to drive from show to show on their first US tour in 1978. You'll hear the evidence pop up in places like the piano flourishes (just like those in ABBA's "Dancin' Queen") in "Oliver's Army" , or in the four/four disco beat of "Senior Service". Disc one of this reissue set is the whole essential, verbose, witty, and ear-pleasing Armed Forces disc in both its UK/world incarnation ("Sunday's Best" included) and US version("...Peace, Love and Understanding" included.)
Disc Two is made up of non-LP/B-sides (all 5 of which were on Columbia's "Taking Liberties" collection from 1980 and on the Rykodisc reissue of Armed Forces) and two previously unissued alternate versions of two "Armed Forces" songs in addition to a whole slew of live songs. If you bought the "Armed Forces" LP right when it was released in 1979 you got a free bonus shrink-wrapped in with the album, a three song single called "Live at Hollywood High"(These three songs were also on the Rykodisc reissue). The gorgeous voice and piano version of "Accidents Will Happen" led off side A of this single, which faded abruptly as drums came bursting in before the final chords were done ringing. Next was an understated "Alison"(also with a quick fade), and on side B, a feedback whine faded in to a rather lengthy version of "Watching The Detectives". Thanks to this new bonus disc, we now can here the whole nine song live event without the fades and in the proper sequence. We can hear further evidence of the smoking power and breakneck pace of the 1978 Attractions (also portrayed on the very worthwhile Rykodisc promo CD called "Live at El Mocombo" from a March, 1978 Toronto date), but we can also glean a bit more subtlety and variety in the band's rapidly maturing approach by studying the nuances of this show. We now know that is was a direct link to "Mystery Dance" that caused the quick fade of the first song, and that it was the end of "Lipstick Vogue" that furnished the feedback link to "Watching The Detectives". A final solo "Chemistry Class" closes out this excellent bonus disc.
This wonderful reissue of a reissue should represent the last time you'll ever have to buy "Armed Forces". Get it and you may be able to fully comprehend the tagline from an early 80's Columbia ad campaign---"Elvis Costello. Four Eyes. One Vision."
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Location: Denver, CO United States

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