The shadow of Costello's Imperial Bedroom looms large across this collection of songs written for (and with) other performers. For one thing, the Attractions evidence a much similiar approach to that album, forsaking the bar-band gusto of Brutal Youth for arrangements far more subtle and ambitious.
For another, there's the deep sense of discontent present in most of these tracks, a streak of romantic pessimism that sites this among the songwriter's most compelling work to date.
Some tracks ("Little Atoms," the title track) possess a similar downbeat defiance to that on the King Of America album, while "The Other End Of The Telescope" (co-written with Aimee Mann and originally featured on 'Til Tuesday's Everything's Different Now) shows just how far he's come as a vocalist: using his strengths (a sleek velveteen croon in the lower register; that deep sudden tremolo) to their fullest, interpreting as well as delivering his convoluted lyrics. And "You Bowed Down" is as anthemic and glorious a pop song as he has written. Superb.