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Armed Forces (33⅓ #21)

3.39  ·  Rating Details ·  159 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
Thirty-Three and a Third is a series of short books about critically acclaimed and much-loved albums of the past 40 years. Over 50,000 copies have been sold Passionate, obsessive, and smart. Nylon an inspired new series of short books about beloved works of vinyl. Details Franklin Bruno s writing about music has appeared in the Village Voice, Salon, LA Weekly, and Best Mus ...more
Paperback, 151 pages
Published April 28th 2005 by Continuum International Publishing Group
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18th out of 114 books — 49 voters

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Nov 20, 2007 Patrick rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: ec fans, pop geeks
Another of the continuum 33 1/3 series. I got this for a plane ride and it was an excellent choice.

I've been a big fan of EC since way back and i've listened to Armed Forces a billion times. Also, over the years, i've played and performed some of the songs on it. However, i haven't thought much about it in ages and I though Bruno did a great job of making me reconsider this old favorite again.

I've always found this album to be somewhat slippery. It is chock full of wonderful phrases, at the sam
Paul Austin
Apr 07, 2008 Paul Austin rated it it was ok
Man, I was looking forward to this one. Not only do I love this album, but I’ve seen Franklin Bruno take the stage a few times and he was hilarious, with a wit so quick no one could keep up. I’m also a fan of his songwriting, and this seemed like a can’t miss. I didn’t even finish it. This book is dry as a bone, and the presentation — a scholarly look at all things Armed Forces, including the tour, Costello’s career up to that point, and the subtle differences between various fascist political g ...more
Jan 13, 2013 Edmole rated it liked it
The thing that a lot of people don't like about Elvis Costello is that he's a verbose, pretentious bastard. The thing I love most about Elvis Costello is that he's a verbose pretentious bastard. This, however, is a verbose, pretentious book, which is all right and proper, but I didn't like it too much.

That said, it did what Good Rock Books should do, sent me back to the album listening again, and more, and deeply. And what struck me is how deliberate Elvis is, how many of his choices in song -
Patrick McCoy
Sep 27, 2011 Patrick McCoy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
Armed Forces by Franklin Bruno, was the first book in the 33 1/3 series that I’ve read that is a critical study of the album chosen. Elvis Costello has long been one of my favorite artists because his music is usually rife with metaphors, challenging lyrics, and catchy choruses and guitar hooks. 1979’s Armed Forces is one of his masterpieces and luckily Rykodisk has been re-releasing his albums with added tracks that were recorded in the sessions but didn’t make it onto the album or were kept of ...more
I mostly found this book very annoying while reading it, but it becomes somewhat better towards the end. The book is divided into short entries on different aspects of the album, ranging from a few sentences to a few pages in length. Bruno's discussions of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" and the use of the word "you" in Armed Forces were good, and he has decent discussions of "Less Than Zero" and "Two Little Hitlers." Most of the book, however, is probably not worth readi ...more
May 22, 2008 Amy rated it liked it
Recommended to Amy by: Jim A.
Shelves: 33-1-3
I tend to prefer my 33 1/3 books with a more linear organization -- Bruno's is arranged encyclopedically (song titles, last names of historical figures, place names) with the occasional random noun thrown in as an entry (ambition, bodyguards, etc.). The result is a jumpy little book, which in turn made me a little jumpy. There's also quite a bit of professional-musician geekery about chord changes and such that was lost on me.

However, Bruno provides a considerable amount of historical informati
Mar 26, 2014 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book struck on a really interesting way to write about music. It's an abecedary of the album's song titles, motifs, themes, important figures in 20th century fascism, etc., with only passing regard to the singer-songwriter's private life (beyond those things that illuminate or problematize items listed above). By organizing the book alphabetically by key terms, Bruno can deal with the album's themes of militarism and imperialism in both the political and personal arenas in a way that connec ...more
Oct 25, 2010 John rated it it was amazing
Tour de force. Captures Elvis during his attempted breakthrough in America; captures all of the lyrical references; looks forward and back; and uses a wonderful method of song analysis intermittently interrupting stories from the road, the biography, and viewpoints on the historical musical era. And it's got a through story: When Elvis drunkenly trashed black American musical legends, what did he mean? Is he a racist? How do we understand this Most Important Episode in the context of the musical ...more
Jamison Spencer
Dec 06, 2013 Jamison Spencer rated it liked it
While I eagerly devour every book in the series, this, like many of the ones that try to take advantage of the do whatever you want openness of the series, wasn't one of my favorites. It's arranged alphabetically by seemingly random topics, including things like song titles, but also entries on political figures and fascism. It was very focused on racism, to some extent because of themes in the songs, but mostly because of a notorious incident (that I had never heard of before) where a very drun ...more
Dave Wilson
Dec 30, 2014 Dave Wilson rated it it was ok
This is disjointed, badly structured and often unreadable. Highly technical in its analysis of the songs, it's contrived and often pretentious structure does nothing to inform the reader but everything to show off the author's research.
Jan 18, 2015 mcgob rated it it was ok
I thought I would like this one a lot more, but it was so punishingly dry, and the encyclopedia format was just annoying--no forward momentum whatsoever.
Mar 26, 2009 C.J. rated it really liked it
This was written pretty much in an encyclopedia style, with every subject pertaining to the album (directly or indirectly) running the gamut. While it makes for an almost confusing read the first time around, a second go-round would probably be best if one were to start with, say, the entry on the album's first cut and then go through the book randomly from there, since everything is alphabetized neatly enough.
Jul 29, 2008 Teresa rated it really liked it
The format of this book (A to Z, dictionary style) was sometimes confusing and the musical notations went way over my head, but I forgive it all that for all of the new stuff I learned about EC (a favorite of mine) and this album (another favorite) -- and I thought I knew pretty much beforehand. Bruno immersed me in the EC persona of the time of AF, and I loved being there.
Jan 20, 2008 Jesse rated it really liked it
Great by 33 1/3 standards. Bruno uses an A-Z dictionary-style structure, which organizes the material in a clever non-linear way that injects a surprising amount of drama into the album. He lost me a little when getting into the details of some of the songs, but gives lots of interesting historical context for the cultural reference points Costello was working with/from.
Jul 08, 2012 Howard rated it did not like it
I initially became intrigued with the 33 1/3 series from Continuum. However, this one, and many others, really took any feeling and emotion out of the love, and replaced it with theoretical and philosophical "wankery". Just fuckin' listen to the album...Costello's genius is obvious. Just crank it up, and don't read this book.
Nov 18, 2007 Mike rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who like Elvis Costello
A good book, the first one in the series I ever read. It can get caught up in the technical aspects of playing musical instruments, so if you don't actually play an instrument sometimes that'll go over your head. But a compelling read to be sure about the turmoil of the man, the band, the album and it's time.
Dec 26, 2008 Patty rated it liked it
This is probably the EC album I know the best, so I was looking forward to this book. I liked it pretty well, and I learned a lot, but it was somewhat pretentious throughout and sometimes that got on my nerves. Not my favorite of the 33 1/3 books I've read so far, but neither did I hate it.
Jul 19, 2009 Curt rated it really liked it
I felt the book matched the album in a certain way; the encyclopedic entries of the book did not create a narrative, but a framework in which to examine the songs one by one. Bruno leaves it to the reader to draw larger conclusions, just as Elvis did himself.
Jun 09, 2009 Nathan rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Ian Drury
Shelves: 33-1-3-series
This book had a lot of information, some of which was really interesting, but none of which really pertained to the album itself. It wasn't organized well either, and really didn't enlighten anyone on the Elvis or the album, at least not me as a reader.
Nov 06, 2010 Jason rated it it was ok
This book actually threatened my enjoyment of Armed Forces, not because of any its "revelations," but out of sheer tedium. I'm glad I finished, so I can go back to listening to the album rather than reading about it.
Jared Busch
the style of this was annoying (set up like an encyclopedia in alphabetical order, which means that things were referenced before it was clear what the hell they were talking about) - only got to maybe page 40.
Chris Estey
Apr 02, 2008 Chris Estey rated it liked it
I really like the information about the recording and cultural background in this study of my first favorite record.
Nov 05, 2007 John rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
The author wants to be Greil Marcus a little too much, but still, the book told me a lot I didn't know, which is rare.
Jul 23, 2009 Frank rated it really liked it
An interesting book, and a quick read, about an Elvis Costello album that I don't listen to that often.
Soren Sondergaard
Nov 10, 2012 Soren Sondergaard rated it liked it
Over-done but fine (and very academical) approach to a difficult album.
Aug 17, 2016 Robert rated it liked it
I honestly do not remember much about this volume.
Aug 14, 2008 CleverGirl rated it did not like it
technical as hell. couldn't bother.
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