April 14, 1980 12:00 PM

Elvis Costello

Happy is not a word one normally associates with the dean of New Wave rockers, but in this, his fourth album, an ebullient Elvis makes a convincing case while sacrificing none of his customary excitement. More personal and less political than on Armed Forces, he has produced 20 superb songs crammed (with almost no loss of fidelity) on a single disc. There are more potential hit singles here than there were on Saturday Night Fever, red-hot barn burners like Human Touch, I Stand Accused, The Imposter and Beaten to the Punch; a throat-catching ballad called Motel Matches; and a plaintive declaration titled Riot Act, plus masterpieces of melodic insouciance like B Movie and Opportunity. Bright splashes of organ also contribute strongly to Costello’s exuberant mood. While he can still be cutting (“The chairman…is a compliment collector/I’d like to be his funeral director”) and coy (“When I said that I was lying/I might have been lying”), his songs are more openly about love than before—which might explain “Get Happy.” As Elvis plainly confesses, “I need/I need/I need/The human touch.”

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