West Australian, July 10, 1996

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All This Useless Beauty

Elvis Costello

Michael Dwyer

After 20 years it's always a question of percentages but Elvis Costello's figures are looking better than most. If you're biased towards the kind of depth that unfolds like a good book, All This Useless Beauty takes his number of fair dinkum great albums close enough to a dozen out of 17.

As they should beyond the reaches of fashion, age and experience have continued to increase Declan McManus' stature as (stop me if you've heard this one) one of the truly great songwriters. Self-doubt and male frailty are big themes this time, with "Poor Fractured Atlas" and "Why Can't a Man Stand Alone" among the most insightful of his whole, too-clever-by-half career.

The happily reinstated Attractions' exceptional versatility is an asset as always, from cabaret country to bright beat pop to fragile, tear-tugging piano ballads. As on his last master stroke, 91's Might Like a Rose, the really wonderful parts of Useless Beauty keep rock 'n' roll at arm's length.

Elvis Costello never wastes an opportunity to string a few words together and his tunes remain as hardy as any since Cole Porter had his first tinkle. Shall we knight him now, Your Majesty, and save time?

(9/10)

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The West Australian, July 10, 1996


Michael Dwyer reviews All This Useless Beauty.


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