Elvis Costello emerged from the British punk movement as one of the preeminent songwriters of his generation, but lately the once-angry young man has settled into middle-aged malaise. His songs, however, have endured. Many have been recorded by performers ranging from country legend George Jones to Brit-pop sensation Blur. After a string of disappointing albums, Costello hits upon a winning formula with his latest release, All This Useless Beauty. Working once again with his longtime band, the Attractions, with whom he reunited for 1994's Brutal Youth, the singer-songwriter serves up a collection of songs he wrote for other performers.
Perhaps because he didn't have to concern himself with new compositions, Costello delivers some of his strongest performances in years.
The album starts in the mid-tempo mode of his most recent efforts, but kicks up a considerably harder ruckus with "Complicated Shadows." "Shallow Grave," which Costello co-wrote with Paul McCartney, follows suit in jarring, discordant fashion, sounding like classic Elvis Costello.
And that's high praise, indeed.