Santa Clara University Santa Clara, May 1, 1980

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Get Happy

Elvis Costello

Dennis McGuire

The album cover is adorned with bright, cheerful hues like orange, sky blue and lime green, and bears the command GET HAPPY!! But after listening to the latest work by Elvis Costello and the Attractions, you'll feel that pitch black and various shades of gray would be more appropriate. Most of the album's twenty tracks concern twisted, rejected, or fast-fading love. If the album fails to achieve the ostensible goal of making the listener happy, it is a success in terms of emotional impact.

The barbed, sardonic wit of Costello's previous albums gave the impression of the artist as a grimly amused outsider looking in on life's dramas. However, Get Happy!! gives the listener the outsider's perspective. The songs are intensely personal, at times they are intimate communications between Costello and the object of his attentions. The album's first track, "I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down," is a lament over a broken relationship and sets the mood for what follows. Costello gives us a glimmer of hope near the end of Side One with "I Stand Accused," a joyous declaration of love ("Loving you is a big crime... I've been guilty a long time"), but then pulls as down to the emotional chasm of "Riot Act." A despondent Costello confesses to his lover that "when the heat gets subtropical and the talk get so topical," he "won't be around much anymore."

Side Two continues in a similar vein. Costello as the wounded lover is at his best on the final cut, "High Fidelity." The song begins with the lines, "Some things you never get used to / even though you're feeling like another man," suggesting that despite what external changes a man makes, his heart will always be vulnerable.

Keyboardist Steve Nason's work is impeccable, and the performance of bassist Bruce Thomas is excellent. Nonetheless, Costello's vocals carry the album. By turns raging and pleading, he convinces the listener that the pathos of Get Happy!! is no act. As Costello once said. "Many of my songs involve guilt and revenge. The stronger emotions, the ones you're left with at night." Get Happy!! is the rare kind of album that could make you lose sleep.

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The Santa Clara, May 1, 1980


Dennis McGuire reviews Get Happy!!.

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1980-05-01 Santa Clara University Santa Clara page S-13.jpg
Page scan.

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