Lawrence Journal-World, March 16, 1980

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Get Happy!!

Elvis Costello

Beth Scalet

I like Elvis Costello. My Aim Is True and Armed Forces hold up as well as any popular music released in the last four or five years. That's why I am personally disappointed that this album seems so disjointed and so deliberately unapproachable.

Putting 20 songs on one record is technically challenging, for a number of sonic reasons, and producers Nick Lowe and Costello have succeeded in surmounting some of those problems. But they have not succeeded in making Get Happy seem like a coherent whole. The fault lies partly in the mixing, which pits the vocals against the instrumentals in the mid-range and leaves almost nothing in the high and low frequency ranges. I've listened to this album on three different systems and in my car and I still can't pay attention to the vocals amidst all the guitar chinks and organ clinks.

The mix compounds other problems. Short, light-hearted (although not light-headed) songs are perfectly valid, but they become background noise if the listener has to work too hard to hear them. There are few melodies here that stick as firmly as "Alison" or "Party Girl," both earlier Costello efforts. "New Amsterdam" is this album's strongest song, and it was spared some of the butchered mixing that plagues the rest of the material here.

But perhaps all of this is deliberate. Hey, get happy. Put this on, dance to it and don't analyze it. A lot of people have been taking Elvis Costello too seriously, and this collection of lots of mostly likeable tunes played by expert musicians is as unpretentious as it can be. The mix sounds like most of the not-too-well-known live bands in funky clubs everywhere, you can't hear everything you want to hear and you have to jump up to see the singer, so you look around and meet people and you dance with somebody and you get happy. Nothin' wrong with that.


Lawrence Journal-World, March 16, 1980

Beth Scalet reviews Get Happy!!.


1980-03-16 Lawrence Journal-World clipping 01.jpg

Illustration by Kerry Waghorn.
1980-03-16 Lawrence Journal-World illustration.jpg


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