Today’s Random Weekend track is a cut from the bonus disc of Elvis Costello’s 2002 reissue of his 1979 album Armed Forces.
‘Big Boys’ is the fourth song on Side One of the original album, and it’s a tight, angry song about sexual immaturity and corrosive infatuation. It’s pretty much perfect as is.
This “alternate version” is similar to the album track structurally, but nowhere near as successful.
This song, from Elvis Costello’s third album, 1979’s Armed Forces, is further proof that you need to be British to really get his lyrics.
For example, “Senior Service” is both a reference to the United Kingdom’s Navy (the highest ranked of their armed forces) and a brand of cigarettes. Both of those meanings are toyed with in this song, along with probably a dozen other things I’m too stupid and/or American to catch.
Musically, Armed Forces is Elvis Costello’s first truly “modern” record, packed with synths and oddball sound loops. It’s the New Wave-iest of Costello’s New Wave period. And if the record is a bit dated, it’s wonderfully so.
Production aside, Armed Forces boasts a fine collection of tunes. One of my favorite Costello tracks, ‘Two Little Hitlers,’ already found a home on the blog in early 2009. I rank that little-known song (to casual fans, anyway) right up there with Costello’s best.
In 1979, Elvis Costello released his third album in as many years. Armed Forces was his second album recorded with The Attractions (who were credited on the sleeve for the first time) and a step up from My Aim is True and This Year’s Model in terms of production values.
I’ve underrated Armed Forces over the years because it pales in comparison to its surrounding albums — not just the two it followed, but the two that followed it. I’m quick to dismiss this album as a qualified success.
Once in awhile an album or song you’ve owned for awhile winds up surprising you. Maybe you never really gave it a proper listen in the first place or maybe something in you changed in the meantime and you’re somehow hearing it with fresh ears.
Such was the case for me with today’s song, ‘Two Little Hitlers.’ I’ve always considered Elvis Costello’s third album, Armed Forces, among his weakest efforts. Apart from strong singles ‘Oliver’s Army’ and ‘Accidents Will Happen’ and nifty, disturbing little pop song ‘Green Shirt,’ I just haven’t found much to like on the record.