Elvis Costello, talented eccentric that he is, seems to be caught in a time warp. His new album with the Attractions, Get Happy!! is vintage 1960's all the way, right down to the corny front cover. Get Happy!! maintains the simple style of Costello's first three efforts, but Nick Lowe's production has a way of sending you back a few years. The myth is turned way up hem, achieving that fuzzy, distant sound of many '60's hits (put on your Meet The Beatles album), and the emphasis on organ strongly adds to this effect.
Not that Get Happy!! is a bad album. It's typical Costello, and that' s good. Unfortunately, though, Costello doesn't really have anything new to say. And that's kind of surprising, since there are all of twenty songs on this album. He's still the guy who can't get the girl, and in Costello's world, in fact, women as a group are not to be trusted; they only spurn you in the end. "Human Touch" is the usual protest against society's mechanization, but that's about the only deviation from this pattern.
Costello's social vision definitely isn't as broad as on his last album, Armed Forces, but the songs do work well individually. "B Movie" is a kind of upbeat sequel to "Watching The Detectives," and "Temptation," "Beaten To The Punch," and "The Imposter" are a few of the more tuneful rockers. There's also his usual quota of slower material here: "Motel Matches" and "Secondary Modern" are engaging songs whose melodies don't quite hide the bitterness of the lyrics, while "Riot Act," cut from the same mold, is among the best he's ever done.
The musicianship on Get Happy!! is practical but unspectacular; as might be expected when you're trying to cram twenty songs onto an album, solos are kept to a minimum. The overall sound is more important to Costello and Lowe, and their simplicity once again succeeds, although the echoed sound quality does occasionally obscure the vocals. To this listener, his first is still his best, but Elvis Costello will not disappoint anybody with Get Happy!! And when you consider that most albums with this much music usually contain some clinkers, that's no small feat.