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Old 11-04-2008, 04:57 PM   #11 (permalink)
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It is a great hobby, but a pretty damn mentally exhausting one As for No Dancing, I've always preferred the slower, live version I've heard, but it's probably just because I heard it before the album version.

Armed Forces
1979, Radar Records, Eden Studios


Due to the increasingly warm reactions Elvis Costello and the Attraction were getting both in the studio and on tour (having taken to the road again after recording This Year's Model) they'd been building up quite the reputation and following in the UK. It goes without saying that the next logical step was the old 'crack the US market' one. In order to do this and consolidate his following in his home country, upon hitting the studio for the third time in barely as many years, Costello chose to take new-wave a step or two further with Armed Forces.

The result of this approach is a very bright and polished, studio-enhanced sound. Consequently I actually think it makes for one of the man's weaker efforts, what with the sound of the record being very much marked by the time and place it was recorded and all. There are still some very good (in some cases brilliant) songs on show but, in contrast to My Aim Is True and This Year's Model, those moments are easily outweighed by the more mediocre ones.

Anyway, on with the review;

1. Accidents Will Happen.
As with (almost) every good choice of album-opener, Accidents Will Happen here is a fair indication of what lies ahead. A very glossy and all-round decent new-wave tune, also home to a very interesting tempo-change in the bridge, which is basically a staple of Costello's better songs. 8/10


2. Senior Service.
After which comes a song in a very similar vein only this time, upon hearing Steve Nieve's synth/organ flourishes the word 'dated' flashes across one's mind for the first time. That's not to call it at all mediocre though (it's actually a personal highlight for me), it's just that from here the production values begin to threaten to become intrusive on the sound of the album... 9/10 [Sorry about the rather ****ty video, it's the only one I could find]


3. Oliver's Army.
...that said though, that prospect just isn't really there when it comes to Oliver's Army. With it's glorious, Dancing Queen-esque piano motif, a wonderful protest lyric and killer chorus, it soon became Costello's biggest hit single (peaking at number 2 in the UK) and was somewhat responsible for this becoming his highest-selling album. Brilliant song, and the first one I ever heard from this guy. Pretty good album so far then... 10/10


4. Big Boys.
...which starts to get itself into trouble with this. A slightly above-average rocker, it's not all that bad but not all that great either. Certainly one of a selection of less memorable tunes here. 6/10

5. Green Shirt.
More or less the same story here, in this case that of what maybe should have been left as an acoustic ballad instead of juiced-up to breaking point with overdubs and keyboard effects. Demo versions of both this and Big Boys are indeed presented this way are, to these ears, much more effective than their final renditions. 5/10

6. Party Girl.
But here to the rescue is another pinnacle moment. A much more raw, piano-led ballad, with a lyric I'm sure we can all relate to in one way or t'other, it's one of those nicely spread-out areas which saves Armed Forces from mediocrity. 9/10

7. Goon Squad.
This here is as close as the album gets to harder-rocking tendencies of This Year's Model. Unfortunately it doesn't near the heights of that album and is another one of the less spectacular cuts here. 6/10

8. Busy Bodies.
And to follow it up it possibly the lowest point of Armed Forces. It's a bit of an edgeless, tiresome and meandering piece of new-wave pop - a bit of a throwaway if truth be told. 4/10

9. Sunday's Best.
Boasting a sound which isn't too far removed from what Stiff label-mates and rivals Ian Dury and the Blockheads were dealing in at the time, Sunday's Best is one of the brighter, though not truly noteworthy spots on the record. 7/10

10. Moods For Moderns.
Another one of the much more mediocre points on the album, it again falls under the 'overproduced' umbrella and into the trap of pushing the keyboard too high in the mix. It could possibly have been served better with a different approach in the studio, but it's another fairly weak song. 5/10

11. Chemistry Class.
But again, behind it lies a much better tune which again benefits from a lack of the heavy-handed studio method which dominates a lot of the songs on show. A neat little mid-tempo piece of music - much more like it then, but again nothing spectacular. 7/10

12. Two Little Hitlers.
As with the albums which preceded it though, Armed Forces builds towards a great climax with its final two selections on the tracklist. One more piece of songwriting very much in keeping with the riff-rock sound which dominated This Year's Model (even making use of David Bowie's Rebel Rebel riff in the chorus), it's a very nice cut and is host to a fine vocal performance from Costello. 8/10

13. (What's So Funny 'bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?
And in keeping with each of his albums so far, this one concludes with one of Costello's most well-known songs - this time a fast-paced rendition of label-mate Nick Lowe's anthemic original. 9/10

The Outtakes.

Tiny Steps: One of the better, less cluttered recordings here, this mid-tempo rocker probably should have made the album.

Clean Money: And the same can be said for this furiously-paced cut. It was later re-worked into the shape of Love For Tender, the kick-off point for the rapid follow-up release to this record.

Talking In the Dark: This song, on the other hand, is more in touch with the weaker and more dated moments of the album, and therefore no big loss.

Wednesday Week: A similar song to Goon Squad, with its quick-fire delivery, great band performance and fascinating tempo-change which sees the song to its end, this is one of the best recordings from the album sessions and really should have survived the chop.

My Funny Valentine: A sorrowful, lamenting rendition of the old standard (don't ask me who wrote it originally), it's a decent enough solo-cut but nonetheless rightly left off the album.

So, summing up then...

With its intent to be as contemporary as possible, the very 'of-the-times' production and songwriting methods employed here do date the end product somewhat and keep it from that level of quality and timelessness which My Aim Is True and This Year's Model reached. Far from a classic though nowhere near as average as some albums I could care to mention. As I've said before though, much much better was to come.

6/10

Tune in next time for a few words on Get Happy!!. Here's a teaser for ya

Last edited by Bulldog; 11-04-2008 at 05:48 PM.
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Old 11-12-2008, 05:48 AM   #12 (permalink)
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So, I just listened to This Year's Model.

Highlights for me were (I Don't Want To Go To) Chelse, The Beat and Lipstick Vogue.

The lyrics of Chelse were brilliant and not to forget, the pounding bass and the vocal performance! The keyboards added an excellent touch to it as well. Definitely my favorite.

The Beat, well, that bass says it all!

Love that drum outburst in Lipstick Vogue, and the lyrics again, brilliant to say the least.

'Pump It Up' was a bit, say, cliched for me. But again, the pounding bass and chorus gets stuck in your head...Grrr.

The middle section was a bit weak, but 'You Belong To Me' wasn't all that bad! I didn't like 'Hand in Hand' though. Yeah, It's catchy, but there's nothing much happening here. Pretty average track.

Overall though, I'm definitely impressed! It is a bit more poppy than I thought, but that wasn't a big turn-off. The vocals/bass definitely were the standout's for me, although the keyboards/Drumming were quite good as well. The lyrics were entertaining. Angry as well as funny and sarcastic at times. Cleverly done
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Old 11-12-2008, 03:11 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Demonoid View Post
So, I just listened to This Year's Model.

Highlights for me were (I Don't Want To Go To) Chelse, The Beat and Lipstick Vogue.

The lyrics of Chelse were brilliant and not to forget, the pounding bass and the vocal performance! The keyboards added an excellent touch to it as well. Definitely my favorite.

The Beat, well, that bass says it all!

Love that drum outburst in Lipstick Vogue, and the lyrics again, brilliant to say the least.

'Pump It Up' was a bit, say, cliched for me. But again, the pounding bass and chorus gets stuck in your head...Grrr.

The middle section was a bit weak, but 'You Belong To Me' wasn't all that bad! I didn't like 'Hand in Hand' though. Yeah, It's catchy, but there's nothing much happening here. Pretty average track.

Overall though, I'm definitely impressed! It is a bit more poppy than I thought, but that wasn't a big turn-off. The vocals/bass definitely were the standout's for me, although the keyboards/Drumming were quite good as well. The lyrics were entertaining. Angry as well as funny and sarcastic at times. Cleverly done
Glad you liked it man. I haven't forgotten about this thread btw - life (work and a load of other stuff) has just been a bit more hectic than usual this week. I'll definitely be updating again on Friday, maybe tomorrow

edit - crappy grammar!

Last edited by Bulldog; 11-13-2008 at 10:23 AM.
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Old 11-13-2008, 04:59 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Get Happy!! (Side A)
1980, F-Beat Records, Wisseloord Studios


What happens the majority of the time after an artist releases and finishes touring a commercial hit of a record, he/she/they follow it up in one of two ways. 1 - give the fans the same sound as a proven success formula or 2 - use the money and backing of the label from that hit record to take a step in a new artistic direction. Fortunately, the follow-up to Armed Forces, Get Happy!! falls into the latter category.

Following his rapidly getting bored of the new-wave tag the press had applied to him and the music associated with it, Costello chose to look for inspiration to reinvigorate him as an artist. This inspiration came from nothing but cheap, second-hand Stax and Motown singles and compilations. The result of this was an intriguing genre-experiment producing a hybrid of new-wave and classic soul/r'n'b, and even an album pressed in the style of any Motown hits compilation of the day (the long tracklisting of 2-3 minute songs and the tacky sleeve-art being fair indicators of this).

On top of all that, the resulting album is a brilliant piece of work, and the first in a trio of such records too.

1. Love For Tender
With this as the opening track another Elvis Costello album is kicked into action with another furiously up-tempo opener. In this case it's with punchy, infectious and organ-driven tune, and one which bears the closest resemblance to the new-wave antics of Armed Forces. 9/10


2. Opportunity
This here is one of the more obvious blue-eyed soul experiments on the album - a slow number driven by the talents of Bruce Thomas on bass (which anyone familiar with this album will agree is a notion which unifies this particular one). 8/10

3. The Imposter
And the pace is picked right up again by another hyperactive organ-driven cut, with Bruce Thomas again shining bright with the bassline. On top of that it's home to another sharp and witty Costello lyric ('you've never been this far, always been too smart, and you know all our boys are, really girls at heart'). 8/10

4. Secondary Modern
And again, it's an upbeat song sat just in front of another slow, mournful soul ballad, coming in the shape of band performance not so far removed from one you'd expect from an Al Green cut, with a very fine vocal performance from Costello to top it up. 9/10

5. King Horse
Another frenetic, upbeat number here. Bruce Thomas and Steve Nieve shine in particular here, leading the song onwards and upwards with tight yet memorable performances. It's also a resting place for yet one more of my favourite Costello lyrics - 'he'd seen the bottom of a lot of glasses, but he'd never seen love so near, he'd seen love get so expensive, but he'd never seen love so dear'. 7/10

6. Posession
Another typically snide and witty lyric ('if there's anything that you want, if there's anything that you need, there's no need to be evasive, money talks and it's persuasive' really cuts to the bone for me) is supported by another one of the brightest spots in Costello's back-catalogue. Another almost uplifting piece of bass and piano-led blue-eyed soul, and one of the album highlights without a doubt. 10/10

7. Men Called Uncle
And that particular vein of songwriting is nicely carried over to the subsequent track, Men Called Uncle. A similar song to Possession although slightly faster and with a mix which places more emphasis on Nieve's piano. 8/10

8. Clowntime Is Over
And this trio of soul-tinged tracks is brought to a close by the gorgeous, bass-driven ballad Clowntime Is Over. Slow-burning, deep-cutting, emotional, thought-provoking and another wonderfully-crafted song (the vocal mixing for the line 'who's making lover's lane safe again for lovers?' is just such a great moment). 10/10

9. New Amsterdam
Something of a red herring on this album, the acoustic strumming of New Amsterdam is something you won't hear anywhere else on this record. That and the fact that the Attractions are barely noticeable (except for the flourishes of Nieve's organ) kind of catch you by surprise. To these ears it's another great song but even if it doesn't really suit any listener's taste, given the shortness of the running time it just drifts by and doesn't exactly hang around too long (which is both a strength and weakness of this album). 8/10

10. High Fidelity
Side A is drawn to a close by a glorious piece of piano-led r'n'b and a superb choice for a single. Yet another highpoint of this wonderful album. 10/10

[Stay tuned for a nice pretentious elaboration of my thoughts on Side B and the album outtakes ]

Last edited by Bulldog; 11-13-2008 at 05:18 PM.
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Old 11-13-2008, 06:21 PM   #15 (permalink)
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If you want any guest reviews for the thread, let me know, Love the Costello Discography.

What's your favorite era?
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Old 11-13-2008, 06:57 PM   #16 (permalink)
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If you want any guest reviews for the thread, let me know, Love the Costello Discography.

What's your favorite era?
Favourite era's probably the one I'm starting on here - the whole 1980-82 one. If you're up for reviewing any albums just let me know which one/s you're comfortable with doing and post away. Bear in mind this thread does need to be in chronological order though
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Old 11-13-2008, 08:25 PM   #17 (permalink)
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I'll just leave it to you then, I was suggesting sending you a brief review of one of them via PM to add to your own post. I can cover any of them if you like.

A bit off topic feel free to respond via PM or through a thread search, but are you a fan of Joe Jackson?
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If you're posting in the music forums make sure to be thoughtful and expressive, if you're posting in the lounge ask yourself "is this something that adds to the conversation?" It's important to remember that a lot of people use each thread. You're probably not as funny or clever as you think, I know I'm not.

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Old 11-13-2008, 08:41 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by JayJamJah View Post
I'll just leave it to you then, I was suggesting sending you a brief review of one of them via PM to add to your own post. I can cover any of them if you like.

A bit off topic feel free to respond via PM or through a thread search, but are you a fan of Joe Jackson?
No worries about that - by all means, send me a review or two if you want When I'm finished doing Get Happy we can talk about it over PM

As for Joe Jackson I love what I've heard, but it isn't very much (only Night and Day). Haven't listened to it for a while now, but he is a very interesting artist
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Old 11-14-2008, 12:57 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Get Happy!! (Side B)
1980, F-Beat Records, Wisseloord Studios



11. I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down
Side B opens with a frenzied rendition of one of the more obscure Sam and Dave songs. This 'ere song is the prime example of how covers should be - ie the artist in question just completely makes it his own and, certainly in this case, actually improves on the original by turning what was once a mournful soul ballad into a hyped-up and really very uplifting song. 10/10


12. Black & White World
This here is probably the only song on show here which sounds like it wasn't recorded last Thursday - a little dated with the organ flourishes basically. The band performance makes it sound a bit skewiff as they meander through the number. It's not a bad song any stretch of the imagination, but the weakest part of the album for sure. 5/10

13. 5ive Gears in Reverse
Driven by Costello's catchy rhythm guitar, the rest of the song doesn't really live up to the promise of its opening and is therefore another one of the more unremarkable and less adventurous cuts. 6/10

14. B Movie
A sentiment which is more than made up for the track which follows it. In a very similar ball park to Watching the Detectives before it, it's another reggae-styled piece of songwriting punctuated by a frankly brilliant bassline as well as some tight performances from the rest of the Attractions. 10/10

15. Motel Matches
And the stylistic tour de force of the second side continues here with a down-tempo and emotional piano-led ballad. Again, wonderfully written and performed all-round. 9/10


16. Human Touch
Clearly inspired heavily by Costello's work with the Specials of yesteryear (having occupied the producer's chair during the sessions for their debut), we're handed an infectious, bouncy and totally convincing slice of ska... 10/10

17. Beaten To the Punch
...which precedes the angriest and therefore heaviest cut around these parts, and the one which bears the strongest resemblance to the punkier sounds of This Year's Model. I just love the the anger in the lyrics here as well ('you're looking for somebody new that you can knock about, you are almost beaten to the punch' and 'your body speaks so much louder than your voice, you let it do the talking so I don't have any choice' are a couple of personal highlights of mine). 10/10

18. Temptation
Smooth, r'n'b-flavoured, superbly catchy guitar and bass motifs, it's a song which finds its way onto about nine out of ten of the compilations I make for people. Another well-earned ten - I implore you to go and listen to it yourselves! 10/10

19. I Stand Accused
Could easily have been a hit single this. Obviously though, this furious new-wave update of the Merseybeats' I Stand Accused missed out on that particular honour. It is though an example of Costello and his band recording a cover which improves on the original, and is a highpoint on the album for it (as if there weren't enough of those lying around). 10/10

20. Riot Act
And to put the lid on an album such as this as a sequence of four 10s in a row takes a very special song indeed. This isn't quite what's accomplished here, but it does bring the pace down a few notches into torch-song mode (with added contemporary twists!). A good enough song, but not a touch on a few of the ones which came before in my opinion. 7/10

The Outtakes. [there are quite a few of these, so I'll try and keep this brief]

So Young: A cover recorded very early on in the making of this album, it's a cute little slice of pop-rock, but really nothing remarkable.

Clowntime Is Over 2: Same lyrics as the album cut but just whole lot slower. Decent enough as B-side material.

Girls Talk: Of the two recorded versions available, the thrashier (I know, it's not really a word) rendition is my personal preference. The pumping, repetitive bassline puts this song well above mediocrity.

Getting Mighty Crowded: Easily the pick of the litter. A wonderfully jovial recording of Betty Everett's tune which should probably have made the album.

From a Whisper To a Scream, Watch Your Step and New Lace Sleeves: All three of these would be given the full studio treatment during the sessions for this record's follow-up and, naturally, heavily improved on.

Dr. Luther's Assistant, Ghost Train and Hoover Factory: These particular items sound a lot more like outtakes from Armed Forces than ones worthy of consideration for this album, and are therefore justified choices as B-sides.

Just a Memory: A beautiful soul ballad which, upon rejection here, was later given to Dusty Springfield. Steve Nieve's gorgeous piano line make this one of Costello's more obscure gems in his back catalogue.

I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down (alt. version): Much more faithful to Sam and Dave's original than the album cut, this particular re-reading is just as well-performed as the aforementioned one. Very hard to pick a favourite between the two.

So, summing then...
A truly fascinatingly experimental genre-hybrid of an album, delivering a mix of new-wave, soul and r'n'b. One of the peaks of Costello's career which shows him really starting to come into his own as a writer and musician. Any doubters of the quality of the man's post-My Aim Is True output need pointing in the direction of this magnificent album. It's a bit much to swallow at first, being 20 tracks long and all, and even if you don't appreciate it all the shortness of each song allows the more mediocre moments to just fly by, all unimposing-like! Unfortunately, the same can be said of the best moments here too, which is I feel the following rating is pretty fair...

9.5/10
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Old 11-16-2008, 04:04 PM   #20 (permalink)
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I can see myself getting into Costello. It's a little criminal that I have overlooked one of our countries finest songwriters. Love the 'Possession' track. Great thread.
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