Chicago Tribune, May 16, 1996

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All This Useless Beauty

Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Mark Caro

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It's strange that this combination of new songs and others that Costello wrote for or with other people would be his most cohesive, soulful album in a decade. He's playing with the Attractions again but isn't trying to relive past glories (as on 1994's Brutal Youth) or demonstrating how many stylistic hats he can fit on his head (as on everything since Spike). Instead, he's confidently, passionately delivering a strong group of songs — sequenced dramatically, with three opening, shimmering ballads building to a guitar explosion in the middle of "Complicated Shadows" — as the Attractions provide just the right, restrained ornamentation. Co-producer Geoff Emerick, the Beatles engineer who last worked with Costello on his 1982 baroque breakthrough Imperial Bedroom, again brings out the warmth in the singer's voice, though this time the studio trickery is minimal. The stand-outs are the mid-tempo tunes, like the would-be pleading of "Why Can't a Man Stand Alone?" (written for, but not recorded by Sam Moore) and a shuffling sleeper called "Distorted Angel."

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Chicago Tribune, May 16, 1996


Mark Caro reviews All This Useless Beauty.


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