Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spinning Songbook Countdown: Armed Forces

"Oh I just don't know where to begin..."

Elvis Costello's third album is another one of his bests and shows how fast he was growing as an artist then. It's not very often that your listen to songs about executive ambition (Senior Service,) military efforts (Oliver's Army and Good Squad,) and relationships (Party Girl, Big Boys and Two Little Hittlers) in the same album. Armed Forces also foreshadows how versatile and proficient The Attractions would become as a band in the ensuing years. Originally titled Emotional Fascism, this album was released in 1979 and became Costello's first major hit in both sides of the Atlantic. It's another great place to start if you've only heard the classic tunes.

I like Armed Forces a lot. I don't think I could have gotten through my years as a waiter without reciting: "And I would rather be anywhere else but here today," a phrase from Oliver's Army, Costello's take on the push for military work. It also has so many other classic songs but there's one that I think is vastly underrated and near perfect, Two Little Hitlers.

I love everything about this song, more so than the US final track and more well-known- (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding? There's the ear-wormy guitar riff, borrowed from Bowie's Rebel, Rebel, and those amazing pun-heavy lyrics that sound more like ramble than a typically structured song. It's such a fun, pop tune that I never really realized how great it was until several years after I bought the album. It's the only song in this album on which I always hit repeat after each listen.

Classics: Accidents Will Happen, Oliver's Army, Green Shirt, Party Girl, (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding

Songs I'd like to hear live: Big Boy (though preferably something like the demo version not the one on this album) Goon Squad, Oliver's Army and Two Little Hitlers

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