http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/69f89e33f419b11155b0f34e9eea2b4ba3b1590e.jpg Armed Forces (Reissue)

Elvis Costello

Armed Forces (Reissue)

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5 4 0
November 19, 2002

With this flawless series of reissues, Rhino continues to treat Elvis Costello like a king. Each album has thorough, funny liner notes by Costello and a whole bonus disc of B sides and outtakes. The records aren't bad, either. Armed Forces, provisionally titled Emotional Fascism before its 1979 release, is filled with great rock songs that explore the boundaries between the political and the personal. It features Costello's trademark wordplay ("I could be a corporal into corporal punishment"), wondrous keyboard playing by Steve Nieve and the bitter Nick Lowe anthem "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?"

Upon its release in 1982, Imperial Bedroom was called both the best and the worst album of Costello's career. It's neither: Bedroom is a carefully crafted semi-orchestral suite with gorgeous, yearning ballads such as "Man Out of Time." Many of Costello's later efforts in this vein (his collaboration with Burt Bacharach, say) were mannered and dull, but this one repays repeated listening. Also in this batch of reissues is 1991's decent Mighty Like a Rose — you may remember "The Other Side of Summer" or, more likely, the hideous red beard that Costello grew for the record's release, but it contains several newly apposite songs inspired by a phony war in Iraq.

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