For my money, the three Elvis Costello discs of the late 70's established him, along with Bruce Springsteen, as that decade's most important new artist. The albums were paragons of classic pop structure — snappy, dense, hook-laden — a pastiche, yes, but great art nonetheless.
With his new LP, Get Happy!!, Costello is riding the crest of the New Wave into the 80's using much the same formula. Cramming ten songs on each side Costello has created not so much an album of individual compositions as what seems like a medley of every pop hit you loved as a kid but can't quite place. The Attractions, through ever-present producer Nick Lowe, sound nasty as ever punctuating their trashy roller-rink organ and B-movie piano lines with a powerfully hypnotic rhythm section.
Vocally, Elvis proves once again to be a wizard of versatility — contrast the upbeat staccato phrasing of "High Fidelity" with the impassioned wail of "Riot Act" or the Banshee scream of "Beaten to the Punch." Lyrically, Costello's often unintelligible words allow just brief glimpses into the twisted mind of a bitter, neurotic genius whose angst manifests itself in lyrics that are, at once, humorous and horrifying.
Still, despite the fact that part of the elusive Costello mystique is the enigma embodied in those cryptic, mumbled lines, a good bit of what is getting everyone so excited about New Wave are the lyrics — McCartney, Townsend and the rest are simply too old to effectively articulate for today's youth. So when Costello repeatedly asks in "High Fidelity,"' "...can you hear me, can you hear me?," the answer is a resounding NO! A lyric sheet... please!