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Elvis Costello and The Attractions – Armed Forces (1979)

February 11, 2017


Spectacular Logo by Sarca @ caughtmegaming


[Album 514/1001]

There’s a line in the 1995 movie Money Train that made an impression on me as a youngin’.

When he was complaining about a lifetime of following in his brother’s footsteps, Woody Harrelson’s character explained, “my ceiling is always your floor.”

To which Wesley Snipes said something along the lines of “then move out of the maple fudgin’ building.”

While Wesley’s less-than-compassionate reply likely made me laugh at the time, Woody’s line was the one that kept me thinking about what it would be like to live in someone else’s shadow.

If Declan Patrick MacManus didn’t feel like following in someone else’s footsteps, choosing a stage name of “Elvis” was a curious choice.

Was this Elvis’s ceiling the other’s floor? Or vice versa?


(at 2:00)


Well, beyond their stage names, I wouldn’t say the musical Elvises live in the same maple fudgin’ building.

But looking at Elvis Costello on his own, particularly after hearing Armed Forces, the ceilings & floors metaphor may still apply.

Armed Forces is the sixth and final Elvis Costello record on the 1001 list, following in the footsteps of This Year’s Model, My Aim is True, Imperial Bedroom, Blood & Chocolate, and Brutal Youth.

What I’ve realized?220px-elviscostello_armedforces

Elvis Costello has an impressively high floor, though the ceilings aren’t outrageously high.

This Year’s Model, likely my least favourite of the bunch, represents the low point at about a 7.5/10. I’d be happy to have a floor so high!

My Aim is True, likely my preference of the lot, would probably earn about an 8.5-9.0/10. Nothing to sneeze at, to be sure, but not off the charts either.

The rest of the albums from this week’s series, Armed Forces included, would fall somewhere in between.

To which an optimist might say, what admirable consistency!

But consistently good, rather than great.

Which means, as a tenant in an Elvis Costello building, although I wouldn’t be rushing to move out, I also wouldn’t be rushing to spend all of my free time in the relatively high-floored/low-ceilinged living quarters.




Verbalize the Positive

Someone whose generosity doesn’t appear to have any sort of ceiling? That would be Aaron @ keepsmealive.

A few weeks ago, a care package of musical goodies arrived at my house. Included in the parcel? A working 8-track cartridge of Armed Forces!

So while I liked this album, I’m a much bigger fan of all the nice things Aaron does for so many of us bloggers & the many ways he constantly builds community. Or as he would say, COMMUNITY!

From → 1970s

  1. I like that quote and may have to watch the movie.
    Care packages!! That’s pretty awesome.

    • Overall, Money Train wasn’t as strong as the other Snipes/Harrelson feature (White Men Can’t Jump) – but Aaron most defintely is overall awesome!

  2. So do you think maple fudgin’ Elvis Costello is over-represented in the 1001 then?

    • Such strong language HMO!
      And I could make that argument if it’s the 1001 you “must” hear to get an idea of what music was like between 1955-2005. If you like 1, you may like the rest, so 1 could be a representative sample.
      But I liked all 6, so I haven’t written any strongly worded letters to the selection committee!

      • I just got a feeling you were a bit “meh” about all this? Have I got the wrong end of the stick?

      • It’s a funny feeling to consistently ‘like’ an artist – but never really be overly impressed or disappointed by them.
        So even though ‘meh’ I’d associate with a ‘satisfactory’ album, by EC being consistently good but not great, I suppose that leaves me feeling a bit ‘meh’ at the end!

  3. Well said about Aaron! One of the best! If anyone is going to hunt down stuff it’s Aaron! Look at the Arcade Cd he landed for me. He found it in Nova Scotia…and still got it to me but was unhappy with it found and sent me a second copy….
    Great Chap!
    Come to think of it when Costello first launched career wise pretty gutsy move on his part to call himself ELVIS! hahaha….one way of getting noticed back than!
    I first read about him in Creem Magazine. Creem was a great mag as they featured all kinds of artist’s and there Creem Metal Magazine specials were awesome….

    • A great chap indeed!
      Being a singer and calling yourself Elvis – it’s like those NHL players in the 80s that tried to wear #99 and didn’t have the last name Gretzky, at least it worked out a bit better for Costello!

  4. “Accidents Will Happen” is still a fantastic opener! The rest is like you said, very good, not great.

    • And if I unintentionally overlooked it Geoff, well, you know what they say about accidents 🙂

  5. We share an Elvis Costello favorite — My Aim Is True — and a “somewhere-in-the-middle” view of Armed Forces. I’ve enjoyed your EC week especially because, besides this one, I don’t own nor have had previous experience with any of the other three you touched. I will note that I think Mr. Costello did insert more variation into his catalog as he went on from those albums included in the 1001. I am a big proponent of When I Was Cruel (2002), which I’d describe as somehow both uniquely moody and “crunchy” among his output.

    • That’s good to hear that he did change up his sound through the rest of his catalogue – When I was cruel sounds like the 7th EC recording I’ll explore.
      So perhaps, he adds variety each time, it’s my reaction that seems to stay constant!

  6. Aw shucks, thanks for the shout out Geoff! This is a great community (COMMUNITY!) people with wonderful folks, and I suppose I do shout about it quite a bit and do what I can to make it cool from here, but I’m just happy to be part of it. Y’all rock!

    I’m glad the parcel arrived in good nick, and am thrilled that one of the 8-tracks I found was one you needed and on the list! Hahaha that was totally NOT planned. And beyond that, I’me even happier the thing even worked! I have no way of testing them before sending them on…

    I have Armed Forces on LP and cassette though, strangely, not on CD. Hm. Ah well, I remember liking it well enough, though I’d have to play it again as it’s been a while. I know I read a book about him and wasn’t too impressed by the man himself, though.

    Also, I find it interesting that he had 6 albums on the list. Are there any artists who had more? The other Elvis? The Beatles, maybe? Why so many Costello? I mean, if you’re only gonna pick 1001 albums out of ALL the records on the planet, how did he get 6? Not to knock his abilities, or anything! Just curious!

    • That’s fantastic – so between us now, we’ve got 8-track/LP/cassette, but not the most modern of the bunch, the compact disc!
      The other Elvis has 3, The Beatles have 7 or so (as do Bowie and Dylan), I think the Stones tie him with 6!
      And agreed, the community we’ve stumbled into most definitely does rock!

      • Costello has the same number as Stones? That seems… wrong. All deference to Declan, and all, but c’mon.

        I tend to think we haven’t stumbled on this community. We created it!

  7. I have this one! The only Costello album I own (though I do like The Delivery Man and I’m interested in the one he made with The Roots). I quite like this one, but I don’t love it. Certainly better on the second listen, so, y’know, maybe I’ll dig it more at some point. I guess My Aim Is True is the one I pick up next!

    • … and yeah, I second your verbalising the positive here. Aaron’s one of life’s good guys. As are you all, actually.

    • That Roots one intrigues me too!

      • I only heard one or two tracks, but it sounds pretty promising.

      • It’s quite excellent (I say from my position of being totally biased in my love for the Roots).

        I covered it in 2014!

        Update on that post, though: something nagged at me then, but it has grown into love with repeated listens! If you see it, buy with confidence.

        There’s also an EP that followed called “Wise Up: Thought – Remixes And Reworks” that I think helps complete the picture.

  8. Typical Aaron. Sends you an 8-track but leaves out the ’58 Chevvy pick-up with four-speaker cartridge player and buxom companion for long trips. Don’t know why you bother with ‘im.

    (Except that he’s right, of course. It’s all about community/connection. Great post)

    • Haha, I wouldn’t be surprised if 2 outta 3 of the above arrives in a future care package!
      Cheers Bruce!

  9. What?! TYM is one of my absolute faves – top 10, easily!

    • Uh oh – viewer discretion advised for the upcoming Bone Machine review than Joe, it’s favourable, but not glowingly so!

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