Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 16, 1996

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Elvis Costello's sound still holds strong attraction

Steve Dollar

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Singer's reunion with classic combo is predictable but pleasurable

Songs don't matter much as the sound Elvis Costello creates when he colludes with his on-again, off-again bandmates of nearly 20 years, the three musicians known as the Attractions. Collectively, even though the iron man Elvis took most of the credit, the group once forged deliriously inventive pop songs that were encyclopedic and trash-compacted: the dense, complex arrangements on the late '70s/early '80s classics This Year's Model and Get Happy!! were perfect foil to Costello's verbose rage and motor-mouthed punning.

All This Useless Beauty is EC's second album with the Attractions since a 1994 reunion, and while it's clearly secondary to his (and their) best work together, there's pleasure in hearing how the music meshes against Costello's gallery of crooner gestures. Lyrics about love's faded glories ("The Other End of the Telescope") and deaths worse than fate ("Shallow Grave") unfold at a luxurious pace, while the music shimmers with funhouse-mirror R&B licks, spectral organ timbers, shock wave guitar, stately bass lines and the majestic crescendos of Steve Nieve's piano.

Fault Costello for breaking no new ground, but don't begrudge him a nimble tongue. Next time you're in the shower, just try this line: "Cause late in the evening as I sit here mopin' / With a bamboo needle on a shellac of Chopin / And the cast-iron heart you failed to tear open."


Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 16, 1996

Steve Dollar reviews All This Useless Beauty.


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