Friday, April 29, 2011

The King of Limbs - Radiohead

The King of Limbs
Ticker Tape Ltd.  TICK001LP

Looking at this blog you would think I mostly listen to 60s music but basically that is just because my vinyl collection is dominated by that stuff.  I listen to lots of contemporary alternative rock, that is what I listen to the most actually in a normal day.  Unfortunately that means CDs, partly because back in the 90s and early 2000s lots of albums only came out in that format and because CDs are so much cheaper than vinyl nowadays, which seems pretty ironic since back in the 80s vinyl was so much cheaper than CDs.  I have to really love a band or album to pay the extra five or ten bucks it is going to cost on vinyl.  If I had the money I would just buy vinyl, but alas that is not the case.  Anyway Radiohead is the sort of band I will pursue on vinyl.  Ahh Radiohead, what a remarkable story.  Once upon a time they were a rock band who played a kind of Brit Pop not all that removed from Oasis (only better.)  Then they made one of the great albums in rock history "OK Computer" and became the greatest band in the world.  Following that, they abandoned the guitar based sound that made them successful and explored post-rock sounds on "Kid A" and "Amnesiac".  It was still a song-oriented approach for the most part, but the density and complexity of the music was way beyond your typical alternative rock band and closer to the kind of avant-garde stuff you might hear on college radio.  At the time it sounded to me like music from the future, the shape of rock to come.  The anger behind "Hail to the Thief" dictated a return to a more direct, conventional rock attack although not abandoning the post-rock soundscapes entirely but "In Rainbows" seemed to me to be their most accessible album since "OK Computer."  So I had no idea what to expect from their newest album, although I was extremely excited to hear it and pre-ordered it as soon as it became available.   The album opens with "Bloom" which begins with a repetitive riff that reminds me of Philip Glass.  Then the percussion kicks in and away we go.  Thom Yorke begins to sing although as has often been the case since "Kid A" it sounds more like moaning.  I can hardly understand a word he is singing, it is tough even looking at a lyric sheet.  I'm not sure what it means, it is kind of a dreamy aquatic song, very atmospheric.  In contrast the next song "Morning Mr. Magpie" is relatively easy to understand as is generally the case when Yorke is pissed off about something, in this case whoever stole his music.  The song is beat driven and sounds a lot like the tunes on Yorke's solo album, "The Eraser."  From its ominous opening on, "Little by Little" is classic Radiohead, a compelling riff, dense soundscape, hypnotic percussion and more moaning.  Once again I needed a lyric sheet to figure it out, it is a creepy relationship song I believe.  "Feral" doesn't seem to be about anything, I can't understand a single word.  It is all mood and sound, another beat driven song layered with abstract musical pieces.  It is aptly titled, it is the wildest song on the album.  "Lotus Flower" kicks off side two.  It is another classic Radiohead song and my favorite on the record.  It is also percussion driven with some lovely abstract music laid on top of the rhythm section.  The lyrics are intense and poetic, it is the closest thing to a love song on the record.  The mysteriously named "Codex" is the most beautiful song on the record, one of the most beautiful songs in the Radiohead canon.  I think it is about suicide, but he might just be telling someone to go jump in a lake.  "Give Up The Ghost" is another beautiful song, perhaps the most conventional one on the album.  It kind of reminds me of David Lynch's music with Angelo Badalamenti only less boring.  I think it is about breaking up but the song is so enigmatic I could easily be wrong, it might be about surrendering to love instead.  The album finishes with "Separator" which is a dreamy song about a dreamlike state of mind.  Some more very fine lyrics here.  I really love this record, I listen to it a lot.  I feel good about the future of pop music, when a record this poetic and this difficult still has popular success.  Lots of groups make difficult music, but how many move units like Radiohead?  They have mastered a synthesis of high art and pop pleasure.  I know some fans complain it is too short, but I'm old enough to remember when most albums were this length.  That only changed when CDs came around and suddenly every album was an hour long.  Personally I think 40 minutes is generally the right length for an album.  Radiohead is an exception but most groups can't fill a CD with first rate songs for an hour or more.  If you love Radiohead, you will love this album, if you hate Radiohead, then read a different blog.  Recommended to anyone who believes that rock can be intelligent without losing its soul.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pumpkin, Powder, Scarlet & Green - The American Breed

Pumpkin, Powder, Scarlet & Green
The American Breed
Acta  ST 91514

The third album by the American Breed.  Curiously the guys on the cover seem to be wearing suits in the colors of the title except for the guy in the blue Nehru jacket who should be wearing scarlet.  The title apparently refers to the four seasons judging from the liner notes.  Short self-indulgent songs with those titles bookend each side of the record.  It suggests that this is some sort of concept album, but aside from those 4 little songs, none of the rest of the record strays far from the usual romantic cliches that fuel commercial pop music with the exception of the moronic "Music to Think By" which is anything but that.  Much of this is too sappy for my taste but there are some good tunes.  My favorite one is "Cool It (We're Not Alone)" which has a driving beat and a nice sunshine pop feel that reminds me of the Turtles.  "Ready, Willing and Able," "Master of My Fate" and "Take Me If You Want Me" are all nice commercial pop songs with catchy hooks, the latter song is the only song penned by the group members and shows some modest promise.  There is also a useless cover of the Troggs' "Anyway That You Want Me."  This album produced no hit singles and is basically pedestrian pop-rock distinguished only by extensive use of horns.  I find it mostly pleasant but far from memorable.  Recommended to fans of the Buckinghams or the New Colony Six when they were on Mercury records.     

Abbey Road - The Beatles

Abbey Road
The Beatles
Apple  SO 383

This is the Beatles album I'm most conflicted about.  I bought it in Salt Lake City at Raspberry Records in the Cottonwood Mall when I was about 14 and I've never been able to fully embrace it.  I loved side two and played it alot.  I still do.  But side one is probably one of the least played slabs of Beatles vinyl in my collection.  Side one gets off to a brilliant start with John Lennon's surreal "Come Together" which features a dazzlingly sensual bass riff from Paul McCartney that I think ranks high among his best work.  Unfortunately the rest of side one goes downhill from here.  "Something" is generally considered a classic, but I find it boring although Paulie's bass playing is once again awesome.  "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" is one of the two or three Beatles songs I really dislike.  I hate the lyrics and the melody, aside from a few bits of synthesizer there is nothing I like about it.  John was right, it is not a Beatles song, McCartney should have given it to Mary Hopkin.  "Oh Darling" is an improvement but it is derivative and it bores me as well.  I think it would have fit in better on "Let It Be" with its rock and roll oldies vibe.  "Octopus's Garden" is a silly kids song partially redeemed by some nice guitar licks and the piano work as well as the bubbly backing vocals.  It has its charms but gets tiresome quickly.  Finally there is "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" which is a good song but it goes on forever without really going anywhere.  I find it monotonous.  Aside from "Maxwell" any of these songs would be fine sandwiched with better songs but running all together like this is too much for me and I just don't play them much.  That is of course one of the characteristics of vinyl records, one often prefers one side to the other but rarely is it so pronounced with me.  I know I'm in the minority on this, many people consider this their favorite Beatles album.  I do love side two though, more than love, I worship it practically.  On side one the combination of borderline songs results in the songs being dragged down, but on side two I find that the combination of nice but minor songs results in something terrific, the sum is greater than the parts.  Aside from "Here Comes the Sun" side two boasts no real classics, but as a medley, suite or song cycle or whatever you want to call it, it is one of the Beatles finest moments.  "Here Comes the Sun" is one of my favorite of George Harrison's songs as a Beatle or a solo artist.  It always makes me feel good when I hear it.  "Because" is a gorgeous song with brilliant use of harpsichord and synthesizer.  Even the Beach Boys never topped the vocal harmonies on display here.  "You Never Give Me Your Money" has some of McCartney's best lyric writing from the period and the closing riff is one of the Beatles' most memorable ones.  It is such a terrific song full of variety and diversity, it is a testament to McCartney's genius as a pop songwriter.  Then on they come, one after another, little pop nuggets segueing seamlessly together, full of memorable lyrical vignettes and great instrumental bits climaxing finally in the thrilling "The End" proving once and for all (as if it needed to be proven at all) that the Beatles were and are the greatest pop music group of all time.   Hearing Paul McCartney playing some of this at his concert at the Hollywood Bowl was one of the great moments in my pop music listening life.  If you can listen to side two of "Abbey Road" and come away indifferent, then I have nothing to say to you - we don't speak the same language.  I consider it one of the great achievements in contemporary pop culture.  Recommended to anyone who ever wondered if pop music was legitimately an art, here's your answer.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Collage - The Raiders

The Raiders
Columbia  CS 9964

Presumably in search of a more serious rock identity, Paul Revere and The Raiders featuring Mark Lindsay, emerged as simply the Raiders on this record.  The music basically follows suit, being somewhat less commercial and pop-oriented than the music they produced during their top-40 heyday.  The sound is definitely heavier, the bass is very prominent in the mix, the music is bolstered by brass and winds, and Lindsay sings in the kind of gut bucket, get-down style favored by heavy rock bands in the late 60s.  I guess this is more serious than "The Spirit of '67" though definitely not better.  Given that their idea of seriousness is covering Laura Nyro's "Save the Country" (they do it surprisingly well actually) no one was going to mistake them for Blind Faith or Steppenwolf, but this is more than credible and a lot more enjoyable than many of the heavier albums from 1970.  I kind of miss the humor of the earlier records, but at least their pop sensibility remains largely intact even when they are intoning hippie platitudes or trying to jam - I'm not kidding about the latter, the raunchy "Dr. Fine" has both a drum solo and a guitar solo that lasts well over a minute.  There are signs of burn out in the songs.  "Think Twice" is one of my favorite tunes on the record and it sounds the most like the band's classic sound but lyrically it is a bitter screed about how hard it is to be in a rock band because of taxes, greedy managers, equipment prices, drugs and groupies (Mark's advice is to stick with the shy ones.)  Speaking of groupies "Just Seventeen" is about enjoying teenage ones and getting busted for it, another occupational hazard for the unfortunate rock star.  "Interlude" and "Gone Movin' On" are about loving them and leaving them.  The hippie platitude song "We Gotta All Get Together" comes courtesy of guitarist, Freddy Weller, but to his credit Lindsay sings it like he really means it.  "Sorceress With Blue Eyes" is perhaps the heaviest song on the record with its pounding riff, screaming guitars and Lindsay's howling vocals, if I heard it on the radio I would never believe it was the Raiders.  It is a remarkable song and definitely shows the band's musical ability.  I don't entirely approve, but I am impressed by it.  "Wednesday's Child" is a welcome respite from the onslaught of heaviness, it is a lovely acoustic based number that sounds a bit like Simon and Garfunkel.  Two of my favorite songs on this record, "Gone Movin' On" and "Tighter" both bear 1967 copyrights which pretty much tells you how I feel about the new sound of the band.  I understand that the band had to grow or at least adapt to changes in order to survive and I do like this record but I don't play it much.  I admire it though, not too many bands produce such interesting records so late in their careers.  Recommended for fans of the James Gang and the Guess Who.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Turn! Turn! Turn! - The Byrds

Turn! Turn! Turn!
The Byrds
Columbia CS 9254

I nicked this from my stepmother's record collection.  I don't feel too guilty about that, if anything I feel bad I didn't take her vintage copy of "Surrealistic Pillow" as well which is probably sitting in a landfill somewhere.  I can't recall her ever actually playing a record the whole time I knew her, but she had a small and mildly interesting collection, a lot better than the stuff my father had.  I was fascinated by the cover, particularly the fashion styles of the band.  They looked really cool to me, well except for David Crosby, he just looks like a dork.  I tried to get my hair to be like Michael Clarke's but I never quite managed it, Gene Clark's was easier to emulate.  This was the Byrds' second album and it follows the folk-rock formula of the first one.  The title song is a classic and the two Dylan covers are enjoyable, but my favorite cuts on this record are the Gene Clark songs, especially "The World Turns All Around Her" which I used to play over and over.  I rank it among the Byrds' best songs ever.  Clark's other contributions "If You're Gone" and "Set You Free This Time" are also first rate.  Amazingly considering how short this record is, Clark's "She Don't Care About Time" was omitted from the record, it would have been one of the best songs on there.   Maybe that's why it was left off, the group's jealousy of Clark is well-documented.  That is just typical of the shabby treatment that helped drive Clark from the group.  I consider Gene Clark the best songwriter the band ever had including Gram Parsons.  I would not trade Clark's songs with the Byrds for every song that David Crosby ever wrote.  The Crosby/McGuinn tune "Wait and See" is pretty decent and McGuinn's hook-laden "It Won't Be Wrong" is a lot more than decent.  On the other hand I find the band's adaption of "He Was A Friend Of Mine" to be dreary.  The lyrics of this traditional song were changed to make it about the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  The group's cover of Porter Wagoner's big hit "Satisfied Mind" is better thanks to the band's fine harmonizing.  It foreshadows the bands eventual move into country-rock later in the decade as does the closing cover of "Oh Susannah" which is more engaging than one might expect but still pretty useless.  Despite its flaws this album remains a significant folk-rock landmark that should be in every 1960s music fan's record collection.  Recommended for people who wish Dylan had gone electric earlier.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Best of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross - Lambert, Hendricks & Ross

The Best of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross
Lambert, Hendricks & Ross
Columbia KC 32911

This was a lesson to me in record company greed.  I picked it up at a garage sale, it was cheap and I thought it would be nice to check out a comp of this trio who I only knew from "Twisted."  When I got home and read the fine print and the liner notes, I realized it was not a comp, but rather a reissue of their 1960 album "The Hottest New Group In Jazz" which boasts a much nicer cover.  I was kind of irked but at least Columbia didn't get any money from me for it and besides all I really wanted was a copy of "Twisted."  I'm not big on jazz vocals, I generally find scatting irritating even with a superb singer like Ella Fitzgerald.  Fortunately there isn't much scatting on this record, aside from "Everybody's Boppin,'" it is pretty firmly rooted in pop vocal tradition, only more swinging.  "Twisted" is a great song.  I first heard it in Joni Mitchell's cover version, but Annie Ross' original is even better, full of sass and wit, a pop classic.   Nothing on this record is as good as "Twisted", but there are other memorable songs, enough to make it more than worthwhile.  "Gimme That Wine" is in a similar vein to "Twisted", it is not as propulsive but it is quite humorous.  I particularly like the bluesy "Moanin'" and the smoldering "Centerpiece."  I enjoy the elaborate arrangement on "Summertime" which makes the old warhorse sound fresh and invigorating.  The vocal pyrotechnics on "Cloudburst" are quite impressive and a clear indication of why people were so impressed by them back in the day.  You don't really have to be a jazz fan to enjoy this record, although it doesn't hurt.  Anyone who appreciates vocal harmonies and quality pop vocals will find much to enjoy on this record.  Recommended to doo-wop fans in search of something a little more sophisticated.

#1 Record - Big Star

#1 Record
Big Star
Ardent  ADS 2803

This is the debut album by Big Star, one of the best debuts in rock history in my opinion.  The back cover photo was taken at Alex Chilton's parents' home in Memphis, the city that was also home to Ardent Records where this album was recorded.  This is a reissue by the Concord Music Group which acquired the Stax catalog (which distributed Ardent) when they bought Fantasy Records.  Given that original copies of this are rare and pricey, this is definitely worthwhile for most vinyl junkies.  Concord is a quality jazz label and they have done an excellent job on this reissue even reproducing the Ardent inner record label.  The pressing is first rate, the art is nice and the sleeve is sturdy cardboard.  Plus it is very reasonably priced, a bargain by today's standards.  Of course if there was any justice in rock history, it would be Jackson Browne and the Eagles albums that were impossible to find and original pressings of this would be as common as "Tapestry" at garage sales and flea markets.  If rock history was fair, the songwriting team of Bell/Chilton would be as famous as Lennon and McCartney or Jagger/Richards.  At least Alex Chilton lived long enough to become a cult hero, poor Chris Bell died in obscurity just prior to the resurrection of Big Star by the New Wave power poppers that finally helped give them their due.  My two favorite rock genres are psychedelic and power pop and when it comes to the latter this is basically nirvana.  Actually merely describing this as power pop, is misleading.  There is plenty of what is commonly recognized as power pop in terrific songs like "Feel," "Don't Lie To Me," "In The Street" and "When My Baby's Beside Me" all of which are better than just about anything you would have heard on AM radio in 1972 and should have been hit singles.  However there are also sensitive ballads like the beautiful "Thirteen," "Give Me Another Chance," "Watch The Sunrise" and "The Ballad of El Goodo" as well as the inspirational "My Life Is Right" and "Try Again" which sound like outtakes from "All Things Must Pass" only with more humility and better singing and then there is Andy Hummel's oddball "The India Song" which reminds me of Donovan.  With the release of the recent Big Star box set (awesome and highly recommended) and the quality reissues of their first two albums, this hard luck group is finally garnering the respect and recognition that they've always deserved.  If you've never heard this wonderful record, you owe it to yourself to buy it.  It is a true classic, better than 99 percent of anything you will hear on classic rock radio or any other radio for that matter.  It is a timeless record that I expect will be appealing to serious rock fans for generations to come.  Recommended for Nick Lowe fans who wish he wasn't such a smart ass.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Magic Touch - Stanley Jordan

Magic Touch
Stanley Jordan
Blue Note BT 85101

The other day I saw a "Clapton is God" t-shirt and snorted to myself derisively and thought about Stanley Jordan.  Jordan is one of the most amazing guitarists I've ever heard.  When I first heard this record I could not believe that Jordan wasn't double-tracking his parts, it didn't seem possible that anyone could produce so many notes with one guitar.  Instead of the conventional guitar technique of fingering chords or notes with one hand while strumming or plucking with the other, Jordan plays with both hands hammering the strings with his fingers, in essence playing his guitar like a keyboard.  The results are astonishing, a cascade of notes flows from his instrument, a one-man wall of sound.  His epic cover of "Eleanor Rigby" is my favorite version of that McCartney chestnut and not just because it has no words.  Jordan's playing opens up one of the stuffiest of Beatles songs and transforms it into a true magical mystery tour.  He actually makes it rock without betraying the original melody or feel of the song.  His cover of "Freddie Freeloader" by Miles Davis demonstrates that he can do the jazz thing equally well, it really swings and shows he can bebop with the best of them.  His version of "Round Midnight" is less traditional and features some of his most virtuosic playing.  There is some fine playing as well on his cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Angel" but I've never heard a Hendrix cover that is better than the original and this is no exception.  Jordan has the technique but he can't match Hendrix's passion or imagination.  Jordan has mastered the guitar but Hendrix pushed it where it had never gone before.  I miss the distortion, the roar and the fire.  I don't care much either for the Michael Jackson cover "The Lady In My Life" which sounds very 1980s.  It is tasteful light funk sort of like George Benson, it was bad enough when MJ did it, this sounds like something you'd hear in a cocktail lounge.  Jordan plays great but it still puts me to sleep.  Jordan's own compositions aren't very memorable but the aptly titled "Fundance" and "Return Expedition" do offer plenty of opportunities for Jordan to show his skill and the latter tune features some really striking instrumental passages.  You don't have to be a jazzbo to dig this record.  If you have any interest in virtuoso guitar playing be it Eddie Van Halen or Wes Montgomery, Jordan will entertain you.  Recommended for Jeff Beck fans who wish he played faster. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Easter Everywhere - The 13th Floor Elevators

Easter Everywhere
The 13th Floor Elevators
International Artists  IALP 5

Easter Everywhere
The 13th Floor Elevators
Decal  LIK 28

I have an original copy of this but the cover is pretty beat-up and the record is even worse, so I bought this 1988 reissue for my listening copy.  I keep the original as a totem, a holy relic for my altar to the psychedelic 60s.  I don’t really have this altar except in my head, but if I did, there are few sacred objects more appropriate than this one.  "The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators" was an extraordinary masterpiece, the greatest of all psychedelic records, yet this is even better.  Due to personal conflicts, mismanagement, drug abuse and legal problems, the group was already falling apart, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a better album by a disintegrating band aside from "Forever Changes" and "Abbey Road."  This really is a dazzling and inventive record.  "Slip Inside This House" is almost without equal in the history of rock.  I still vividly remember when I first heard it on a college radio station when I was in my late teens and it absolutely floored me.  It is Tommy Hall's definitive statement, 8 mesmerizing minutes of his acid fueled philosophizing combining elements of Eastern mysticism and the "Book Of Revelations" revealed in a relentless torrent of Roky Erickson's passionate vocalizing.  It is astonishing to me that Roky could actually remember all this stuff, much less sing it like he knows what it means.  I've read explanations for some of it, it obviously means something, but that doesn't mean it makes any sense to anyone besides Tommy Hall.  I love it though, it is one of my favorite songs even if I can't even remember the words to a single verse.  The other extraordinary song on this album is "She Lives In A Time Of Her Own."  It has a driving, hypnotic melody that pulses with energy thanks to Roky's impassioned singing.  Once you hear it, you can never get it out of your head.  When I first bought this record, I played this song over and over.  It features some of Hall's best lyrics - mysterious yet accessible.  "Earthquake" and "Levitation" return to the raucous sound and raw energy of "The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators" with great success, the latter song is perhaps their best rocker ever.  "Nobody To Love" marks Stacy Sutherland's debut as lead vocalist.  He doesn't come close to Erickson's ability, but it is a very nice song that foreshadows the fine job Sutherland would do when he took charge on the final Elevators album "Bull of the Woods."  Hall and Erickson get most of the attention when people discuss the Elevators, but I have a lot of respect for Sutherland, I enjoy his guitar playing and he was a talented songwriter.  I mourn his tragic and premature demise.  Although credited to Hall/Sutherland on the record sleeve, "I Had To Tell You" was actually written by Erickson and Clementine Hall (Tommy's wife) and she sings harmony to Roky's lead vocal.  It is a moving and beautiful song.  They also collaborated on the lovely "Splash 1" on "The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators" - they obviously had some nice chemistry, it is too bad they didn't work together more.  The band's cover of Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" is also very pretty.  It is my favorite version of this song, I prefer Roky's vocal to even that of Van Morrison's vocal on Them's version.  The album finishes with "Pictures (Leave Your Body Behind)" which is one of the odder songs in their catalogue.  It is uncharacteristically slow and soulful with the warmth of the tune seemingly at odds with what is arguably Tommy Hall's most dogmatic and heavy-handed metaphysical set of lyrics.  The resulting song is kind of ridiculous but I still dig it, even the electric jug appeals to me on this one.  There was a time when this was one of least known rock masterpieces around, but I think most serious rock fans have heard it by now.  If you haven't, go out and buy it immediately.  You will never hear a better psychedelic record.  Recommended to anyone who ever wanted to leave their body behind - this is a trip you won't forget.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Armed Forces - Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Armed Forces
Elvis Costello and the Attractions
Columbia JC 35709

I initially thought that Elvis Costello was a punk.  I first saw him on "Saturday Night Live" delivering a blistering version of "Radio, Radio" and in a promotional video for "Pump It Up" which featured him spastically stomping his way through the song apparently seething with anger.  "Aha," I thought, "so this is punk rock."  Of course if I had heard his debut album "My Aim Is True" first, I would have realized how wrong I was - he may have been angry but he was no punk.  EC was a classic power popper just like his comrade Nick Lowe which I found out when I bought this shortly after its release in 1979.  This album is just as scathing and bitter as "Never Mind the Bollocks," but EC's commitment to pop craftmanship is evident throughout - no 3 chord primitivism for him.  For me that is a good thing, I listen to this more than my Ramones, Sex Pistols or Damned records.  It never gets boring.  "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding" was the hit single, but if you changed the words to be about romance, it is not all that removed from the music of the Ronettes or Bruce Springsteen, dramatic mainstream pop delivered with a wall of sound.  My favorite song on the album is "Green Shirt" with it's sustained tension and drumbeats that rattle on my skull like a billy club.  The underlying violence in the song reappears throughout the album whether involving romance in "Accidents Will Happen," geopolitics in the brilliant "Oliver's Army," careerism in "Senior Service," or education in "Goon Squad."  The flip side to all this hostility is that Costello's attitude towards love and human relations is decidedly misanthropic, bordering on misogynistic.  The original title of this album was "Emotional Fascism" which would be an apt title for a record that so blatantly views relationships in terms of power and control.  Costello's sardonic perspective is pretty harsh even for a pill like myself, but it is easy for me to cut him some slack because he writes such amazing lyrics, his love of word play and his sarcasm are enormously appealing to me.  I consider him the best lyricist of his generation.  This is a gloomy record but it is also lots of fun and musically it is very compelling.  It is my favorite Elvis Costello record and one of the very best records of the late 1970s.  It was the record that got me excited about the New Wave.  I didn't believe in punk, I liked the excitement but thought it was regressive and a dead end.  Listening to "Armed Forces" in 1979 I recognized that it was a departure from the 1970s AOR stuff I was used to hearing - Boston, Aerosmith, Eagles, and so on, yet it was not all that different than the Beatles - Costello even quotes the closing riff from "You Never Give Me Your Money" at the end of "Party Girl."  Costello was taking the musical values of the 1960s and building on them with a modern sensibility.  This was progress and it got me interested in modern music and the future of rock again.  Recommended to sociopathic Paul McCartney fans.