Tired of the same old sugar-coated goo that seems to ooze from the radio in the summer time? Then you should Get Happy!!! the latest album by Elvis Costello and the Attractions.
For many. Elvis Costello is the epitome of New Wave rock. The rock press believes him to be the prime exponent of the pop punk rock trends. Beyond the categorical labels the rock media have hung upon Costello, he is probably one of the most important song writers to emerge in the past 10 years. His characteristically short, lyrically picturesque tunes emphasize the melody and are instrumentally streamlined into energetic little rock ditties that grab your ears and won't let go.
With the release of Get Happy!!!, we find Elvis reaching back and relying heavily on his early 60's R&B and soul influences.
Like most albums made before 1967, there are 20 (yes folks, 20, count 'em 20) songs, totaling nearly 50 minutes of music.
Elvis and the Attractions move with blazing energy through rockers with titles "Love For Tender," "Black and White World." and "Beaten to he Punch" and through slower more soul-oriented material with equal intensity, keeping the energy levels constant enough to carry the listener through 10 songs without growing tired or getting bored with the album.
60's soul is the overall feeling of the album with a strong dance beat prevailing through many of the songs.
Elvis proves that he is still the master of the twisted phrase and the cynical lyric, as he bends familiar phrases to suit his needs with lines like... "you're the one who hates to love, and he's the one loves to hate..." and "the wages of sin are an expensive infection / they say they'll make you bankrupt," from "Love For Tender" the album's opener.
The R&B feel extends to a cover of an old Sam and Dave tune, "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down." but Elvis treatment seems to he lacking something (perhaps soul?) and the song suffers somewhat as result.
Nick Lowe's unusual production tends to bury the vocals and emphasize the instruments. This forces the listener to strain to hear Elvis' voice and lyrics, which were generally clear above the instruments on previous albums. Up-tempo songs require repeated listenings to decipher the excellent lyrics. However, what might be fatal flaws for another artist only add to the mystic of an Elvis Costello recording.
The problems the production technique causes the vocals are made up by what they add to the excellent instrumentation of the Attractions. The arrangements are Spartan, with no frills, lots of tasty fills and nary an unneeded solo in sight.
while keyboardist Steve Naive stays in the supporting role providing the usual organ fills and occasional boogie piano riff, Bruce Thomas' bass emerges as the center of many of the album's better songs, such as "Beaten to The Punch," "King Horse." and "B-Movie." Costello's guitar remains unobtrusively devastating, whether understated such as an on "Secondary Modern" or sweetly clear and simple as an "Opportunity."