After the glorious pop masterpieces that were the Trash Can Sinatras' first two albums, A Happy Pocket is a bit of a letdown. Murky production, strange vocal effects that obscure Francis Reader's delicate voice, and an over-reliance on mandolin overdubs make for a generally less than engaging listen. That doesn't mean that there aren't some fine additions to the Trash Can canon, as "The Safecracker," "Twisted & Bent," "How Can I Apply...?," and "The Therapist" are absolutely sublime. One gets the sense that the album was only half complete upon its release. Indeed, a rotating bevy of mixers and engineers are credited with various batches of the songs. At least one-third of the album comes across like a collection of fleshless demos. Particularly stale is the amateurish cover of "To Sir With Love" that sounds as if it was recorded underwater with Reader half-asleep. A Happy Pocket is certainly more subdued than the band's earlier albums, but that's not what makes it disappointing. It's as if the band took a step backward, stripped down their trademark jangling guitars, and decided to rely on studio polish in place of their usually stellar hooks. Had it not been for the stunning musicianship and energy of the previous albums, A Happy Pocket would probably be more enjoyable. But outside of the occasional gems, as stellar as they are, A Happy Pocket lags far behind the band's earlier output due to poor sequencing, some sloppy production choices, and a lack of editing prowess. Had the album been edited down to five or six songs, it would have made a fine mini-album.
AllMusic Review by Tim DiGravina