With Nick Lowe producing, Armed Forces turned out to be an album of very catchy tunes which masks the bitter satire of the lyrics. The arrangements are especially great on songs like Busy Bodies, Green Shirt and Big Boys. My favorite track is the lilting ballad Oliver's Army, but every single song has a unique pop appeal. Costello is amongst the most literate and versatile of rock musicians and especially on this album, the tight writing and clear melodies are prominent, whilst The Attractions must be the best band he ever recorded with. Of the new tracks, the inclusion of Alison and Tiny Steps was a smart move. Armed Forces is classic of late 70s acerbic poprock.
This is, in my humble opinion, Elvis Costello's finest, most consistent album. There are no weak "filler" tracks. Aside from the hit singles 'Oliver's Army' and 'Accidents will happen' it contains a host of timeless, melodic gems. 'Party Girl' in particular is a standout track, the descending bass-line is similar to the end of 'You never give me your money' by The Beatles. Even the extra tracks at the end of the Disc are excellent; There are wonderful stripped down, piano based renditions of his classics 'Alison' and 'Accidents will happen'.