Ampersand, May 1980

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Get Happy!!

Elvis Costello & the Attractions

Don Snowden

In the past 2½ years, Elvis Costello has given us one singer-songwriter album (My Aim Is True), a rock band LP (This Year's Model), and one modern pop long player (Armed Forces). Get Happy!! is the bespectacled Britisher's rhythm and blues record, an album permeated with references to the soul music tradition.

"I Can't Stand up for Falling Down" is an old Sam & Dave B-side and both "5ive Gears in Reverse" and "Beaten to the Punch" are virtual throwbacks to the Stax era. "Secondary Modern" is a very close cousin to the "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" groove while "High Fidelity" sounds like a backing track from Motown's mid-Sixties heyday. "Opportunity" boasts the throbbing, slow-burn sensuality of an Al Green song and "Human Touch" is based on the Jamaican ska rhythm that's all the rage in England these days.

But the black influence extends only to the music. Lyrically, Costello has largely returned from the political commentary of "Oliver's Army" and "Goon Squad" to his familiar themes of romantic obsession and thwarted desire. His flair for the brilliant wordplay ("He's got double vision / when you wanted him double-jointed") is still there and Elvis struts his lyrical stuff best on "Riot Act," the brooding "New Amsterdam" and the country-tinged lament of "Motel Matches."

Get Happy!! contains 20 songs and close to 50 minutes of music but this admirable display of quantity isn't quite matched on the qualitative end. Muffled, distant production prevents the hooks from really sinking in. There's a sporadic air to the album — the songs sound good while they go in one ear but quietly slip out the other 15 minutes later without leaving much of an impression.


Ampersand, May/June 1980

Don Snowden reviews Get Happy!!


1980-05-00 Ampersand page 21 clipping 01.jpg

1980-05-00 Ampersand cover.jpg 1980-05-00 Ampersand page 21.jpg
Cover and page scan.


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