Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Elvis Costello: Armed Forces [Columbia, 1979]
Like his predecessor, Bob Dylan, this ambitious tunesmith offers more as a phrasemaker than as an analyst or a poet, more as a public image than as a thinking, feeling person. He needs words because they add color and detail to his music. I like the more explictly sociopolitical tenor here. But I don't find as many memorable bits of language as I did on This Year's Model. And though I approve of the more intricate pop constructions of the music, I found TYM's relentless nastiness of instrumental and (especially) vocal attack more compelling. A good record to be sure, but not a great one. A-