Elvis Costello Armed Forces on Numbered Edition 180g LP from Mobile Fidelity
Ranked #482 on Rolling Stone's List of The 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time
Mastered from the Original Master Tapes: This Is the Definitive-Sounding Version of This 1979 Pop Classic
Largely written on tour in hotel rooms and on the bus, Elvis Costello's Armed Forces takes personal politics to a new level. A supremely melodic and hook-laden record, the 1979 set is a showcase of scintillating keyboard lines, sharp guitar work, and the most cohesive arrangements of Costello and the Attractions' career. In every way, this is a pop masterpiece, defined by hits such as "Accidents Will Happen," "Oliver's Army," and the anthemic "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love and Understanding?" You need this record.
While less musically intense than the preceding This Year's Model, Armed Forces doesn't let up in the lyric department. Costello's narratives are loaded with paranoia, irony, bitterness, and scathing humor. Originally titled Emotional Fascism, the singer's third consecutive masterpiece is inspired by billboard sign slogans, insular observations, and social behavior that Costello found applicable to his own situation. "Oliver's Army," "Green Shirt," and "Senior Service" address systemic governmental control. "Big Boys," "Two Little Hitlers," and "Accidents Will Happen" also concern control and betrayal – but that of the interpersonal nature.
Given the luxury of six weeks in the studio, Costello and the Attractions responded with spacious arrangements and a few extra touches and instrumental colors that add to the songs' charm. Steve Nieve employs a monophonic Minimoog keyboard and pianos patterned after Abba's sweet pop; whispers are exaggerated into black comedy shouts on "Goon Squad"; layered and echoed vocals provide the illusion of several Costello voices on multiple tracks. The band is of a piece, constantly in harmony and on the same page.
Mastered from the original tapes, Mobile Fidelity's numbered-edition 180-gram LP presents the vibrant dynamics of Armed Forces' timeless pop songs in the highest possible fidelity. This album has never sounded so full, rich, airy, spacious, detailed, or necessary. The textures and voicings of Nieve's keyboards are alone worth the investment. This pressing will have you dancing in the aisles and analyzing Costello's brilliant turns of phrase for years to come.
"Bottom line is that the MoFi disc is exemplary, and for $29.95, is likely the best version of this record available. U.S. editions not only have the treble tipped up but also feature more compression and don't have the MoFi's weight."
– Jeff Dorgay, TONE Audio, Issue 31