Few pop musicians still have something worthwhile to put out after almost two decades of recording. But Elvis Costello is a fully paid-up member of this elite club, and since his 1977 debut My Aim is True, he has never recorded a really duff album, while some have been 24-carat classics.
His new release, All This Useless Beauty, sees him once again reunited with the three original Attractions, with whom he recorded much of his earliest work and who backed him on Brutal Youth about three years ago. That album was touted by some as a return to the New Wave sound of the late 1970s that first made Costello famous, but in truth it was overworked and awkward in places.
This time however, the quartet seem to have rekindled some of their former magic: All This Useless Beauty is easily the best album Costello has put out in many years, probably since Spike in the late 1980s. Everything about it is as fresh as a daisy.
While Costello is always wordy, there is an absence of the syllable-stuffing that has tripped him up in the past. His penchant for slow, teary ballads - which stretches right back to Alison - is given good measure, but there are plenty of uptempo numbers which could proudly sit alongside tracks from such early masters as Armed Forces or Imperial Bedroom. The Other End of the Telescope, the Byrdsian You Bowed Down and It's Time are all classic Costello.
Finally, the Attractions (Bruce Thomas, Pete Thomas and Steve Nieve) merit special mention. With maybe the exception of the motley bunch of big names and session men Costello put together for Spike, these highly skilled musicians have always been his most successful collaborators, and they deserve credit for their impeccable taste and playing which injects so much life here.