UC San Diego Daily Guardian, May 30, 1996

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All This Useless Beauty

Elvis Costello

Kristin Madigan

When listening to Elvis Costello and the Attractions' latest release, All This Useless Beauty, one might wonder who the Attractions are. This is because the album is permeated with just one thing: the crooning voice of Elvis Costello.

Costello has a knack for fusing melodic pop with rock and blues. In his latest release, All This Useless Beauty, this ability is evident. His new album features an even greater blend of musical genres.

Another interesting feature on this album is Costello's songwriting. The songs on this album are Costello's covers of songs he wrote earlier for other artists. This approach allows for his most diverse range of songwriting featured in one album.

All This Useless Beauty opens with a ballad entitled, "At the Other End of the Telescope," which changes perspectives midstream — a stylistic ploy prevalent throughout the album. While the next song, "Little Atoms," is a tiller track, the rest of the cuts are consistently well done. The songs "Why Can't a Man Stand Alone" and "Poor Fractured Atlas" are worth playing more than once.

Also worthy of recognition is the sharp tune, "It's Time," which takes a different musical approach from Costello's other pieces by combining a faster pace with background harmony.

This most recent release of Elvis Costello and the Attractions has definitely hit a fork in the road. While their music has always possessed a somewhat cynical undertone, this album takes that notion a step further. Here, the songs are no longer about the mysteries of life and the complexities of loving women.

Instead, it is as though these men have just begun to see the truth. The message here is not one of anger or accusation; it is one of quiet, pitiful resignation. Costello is now singing about pointless tears, the attempt to reclaim youth and useless dreams. The resultant music is replete with broken hopes and subtle sensuality, sliding along as a vivid combination of lyrical ballads and brief moments of rage and comedy.

The album combines a broad mix of rhythm, instrumentation, incredible poetry and a beautiful voice which preaches reality. This groundbreaking work is an innovative and stylistic gem.


The Daily Guardian, May 30, 1996

Kristin Madigan reviews All This Useless Beauty.


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Page scan.


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