Austin Chronicle, August 2, 1996

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All This Useless Beauty

Elvis Costello & The Attractions

Jeff McCord

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Like a married couple well into their second decade, Elvis Costello & the Attractions bring with them a lot of baggage. Ruminating from their collective armchairs, they squabble like champions, finish each other's musical sentences, and make, on occasion, superlative music; they still seem an uncanny match. Costello's career has been almost as notable for its failures as its successes. An incessant dabbler, his last five albums alone have featured brass bands, string quartets, Shakespeare, and an entire record of cover songs, all with widely varied results. Yet occasionally, it all still works beautifully. All This Useless Beauty is, happily, one of those occasions. Helmed by Geoff Emerick, the one-time Beatles engineer who worked magic on Imperial Bedroom, Beauty sparkles with dioramas of sexual intrigue, failed relationships, murder, royalty, and wraps with a glorious kiss-off of a production number, "It's Time" ("But if you do have to leave me / Who will I have left to hate?"). The Attractions dig in with versatile and subtle(!) accompaniment, and song after song grabs hold of you and doesn't let go. This isn't Armed Forces — Costello's not that angry anymore — but sometimes the best things happen when it seems you have nothing left to prove.


The Austin Chronicle, August 2, 1996

Jeff McCord reviews All This Useless Beauty.


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