Less hot under the collar than This Year's Model, Armed Forces was partly inspired by Elvis Costello and the Attractions' 1978 American tour. The songs are set to deceptively poppy arrangements that use plinky Abba keyboards ("Oliver's Army," a hit single about mercenaries), Beatles-ish devices (the fade on "Party Girl"), and whimsical waltz-time signatures ("Sunday's Best") to mask their core cynicism. "Goon Squad," "Busy Bodies," and "Accidents Will Happen" are among Costello's most melodically powerful songs to this point, leading the way to the masterful Get Happy!!. --Barney Hoskyns
As to the original studio album ("Armed Forces", the supposedly main disc), it's great, though not up to "This Year's Model" which is easily my favorite EC album. The lyrics on the album are especially great. One problem I have though is that the sound quality should be better. I don't know what the problem is, if the source tape is somewhat degraded or if the remastering has been over or under done. It's not terrible, just seems like it should be substantially better fidelity for a recording of a successful (by then) artist at that point in time. That's why I'm knocking off one star, otherwise it would get five stars from me. But the Hollywood High part alone would get five stars, so you might think of this as a great live album plus bonus studio tracks.