Good news for those who (like me) thought that Costello over-reached himself on Kojak Variety, his Pinups-style set of old faves from his record collection. Mind you, All This Useless Beauty is a collection of old faves too -- songs Costello has had lying around for a while, played by his first and best band the Attractions, with help from the Brodsky Quartet on strings and co-produced by Geoff Emerick.
But there's a big difference, mainly in the material. For all his razor-sharp pop sensibility and taste, Costello isn't really a stylist of other people's stuff unlike Bryan Ferry or the other Elvis. He's a songwriter first and foremost, and never better than when singing his own. Bonus: this is the best bunch of songs he's produced in a decade.
He said nearly 20 years ago that his aim was true. It still is.