Beauty was the third album Elvis Costello released between 1994 and '96. It's also one of his best collections of the '90s. Something of a hodgepodge, it finds Elvis one moment recalling the anglicized soul of Get Happy!,... more » the next making like Grandpa Grunge. Do you prefer Elvis as Roger McGuinn or Marvin Gaye? He tries out a new songwriting partner in Aimee Mann, who cowrote the lovely waltz tempo opener, "The Other End of the Telescope," but he's also brought back Paul McCartney from his Spike days to cocompose "Shallow Grave." All of which implies Elvis is all over the board. And so what? As the years pass, it's more apparent than ever that Costello has survived because his love--yes, love!--of music. When you think about it, that's an odd notion. Who'd of thought back when Elvis was spewing bile to a new-wave beat, that love, not guilt and revenge, would keep him going. --Steven Stolder« less
Beauty was the third album Elvis Costello released between 1994 and '96. It's also one of his best collections of the '90s. Something of a hodgepodge, it finds Elvis one moment recalling the anglicized soul of Get Happy!, the next making like Grandpa Grunge. Do you prefer Elvis as Roger McGuinn or Marvin Gaye? He tries out a new songwriting partner in Aimee Mann, who cowrote the lovely waltz tempo opener, "The Other End of the Telescope," but he's also brought back Paul McCartney from his Spike days to cocompose "Shallow Grave." All of which implies Elvis is all over the board. And so what? As the years pass, it's more apparent than ever that Costello has survived because his love--yes, love!--of music. When you think about it, that's an odd notion. Who'd of thought back when Elvis was spewing bile to a new-wave beat, that love, not guilt and revenge, would keep him going. --Steven Stolder
I really love this album and I missed not having it around for the last 10 years. It's one of those intangible qualities, like smelling bread brings you back to a certain place, this album does the same. It has a bittersweet quality, a sepia-colored nostalgic feel. This is my favorite Elvis Costello album. This is the only album he has that reminds of the quality of the light when I heard it somewhere before. It's sad and haunting. It's great. Personally I like almost all of his work and dislike it when he decides to wed his style with "high art" and so we have to put up with opera singers and other people, which isn't ever his strongest work. This album is very elegant and mature, the lyrics are great and a little quirky. It's not a greaatest hits album but more goes together. A friend of mine and I consulted with one another and we can't even agree on which songs are the best, which is probably encouraging. I have a hard time rating movies or music, it's either I like it or I don't, so a bunch of 2 stars or a bunch of 5 stars. This CD is way at the top.
Overlooked, Literate, Soulful
Daniel Murphy | San Francisco, CA USA | 08/09/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The album begins with Costello's voice, coming from almost nothing, to sing the biting opening lines: "Shall we agree that just this once/I'm going to change my life/Until it's just as tiny or important as you like." The song is "The Other End of the Telescope, co-written with Aimee Mann. Costello's angry, passionate reading here wipes the pedestrian 'Til Tuesday recording of this song from memory.Many people, like the aliens in Stardust Memories, prefer Costello's "earlier, funnier" works. But the songs assembled here have all the bite and wit of his earlier albums, channeled through a more mature narrator. This is an album of collaborative works, or works written for other artists. Costello is so prolific a songwriter that his recording career can't contain it all.All This Useless Beauty is introspective and literate, but never ponderous. The songs come alive, right out of your speakers. Costello's voice is front and center; every nuance of his performance is audible in this smartly-produced CD.If you've lost track of Elvis Costello over the years, this CD is a fine place to catch up and check out his never-waning output of strong material. If you've never heard his work before, consider this as a place to start. Conventional wisdom will tell you to start with his early stuff. The conventional wisdom is wrong; All This Useless Beauty ties together the energy of his early work with the maturity and intelligence of his later work. In one sense, this is a collaborative album; in another, it's all Elvis."
Elvis Costello pulls out his finest album of the decade
Jeffrey Blehar | Potomac, MD | 04/09/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Well who'da thought the grumpy old guy still had it in him? I wouldn't have! Actually, that's true only because I didn't know that he HAD lost "it" during the late 80's/early 90's - this was the first WB album I bought, after the best-of. But I wasn't expecting it to be half as rockin' as it is! You see, All This Useless Beauty is always billed as the "ballad album" (that is, until Painted From Memory came out): that one where the Attractions sound all laid-back. And Extreme Honey (the "greatest hits" which covers this era) does absolutely NOTHING to dispel that view, since the three songs taken from here are the slowest, mopiest songs on the disc ("All This Useless Beauty," "Poor Fractured Atlas," and "I Want To Vanish," all of them simply exquisite songs and performances, especially from Steve Nieve). Everything else here, however, is either loud or distorted or, in the case of "It's Time" and "Shallow Grave" both plus a shiny red cherry on top! Okay, so the two opening gambits, "The Other End Of The Telescope" and "Little Atoms" aren't rockers by any stretch of an imagination, but they're both so wonderfully bitter and majestic (although "Telescope"'s the better of the two) that you don't care. Not a whitsunday, sir. You see, this is Costello's best album since King Of America, and I'm happy (and wary-no threats or flames, please) to say that I prefer it to Blood And Chocolate as well, which after all these years is still overrated as heck. I mean, come on, "Honey Are You Straight Or Are You Blind?" That's an embarassment, folks! There's nothing nearly so cringe-worthy on this album; in fact, the song that's mostly roughly analogous to it, "Starting To Come To Me," guns it down in cold blood! Of course, maybe that's because it's a... rewrite of Dylan's "Lily, Rosemary & The Jack Of Hearts" (anyone else hear that?), or maybe that's because it cuts off so suddenly and before you can say "arse-kicking rock song," in swoops "You Bowed Down," another nice little hate missive which Costello originally gave to Roger McGuinn but retakes here. Ooh, it's good! The whole album makes me blush with childlike happiness, because he hasn't lost the ability to make a consistently great album. And I haven't even mentioned the 6-minute-but-not-a-wasted-second epic "It's Time," or the pitchblack menacer "Complicated Shadows." Listen to the way starts off whispering, and then gets louder bit by bit, and then starts SCREAMING RIGHT IN YOUR EARS AND YOU LOVE IT! Marvel at Elvis' sense of dynamics. Wish you could write lines like "You think you're like iron and steel, but iron and steel will bend and break in these complicated shadows....""
A Poet and incredible songwriter
Donna Grayson | Los Angeles, CA United States | 03/02/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The lyrics of Elvis Costello's songs are poetic and beautiful. On this CD, I really ejoyed "Little Atoms", "All this Useless Beauty" and "The Other End of The Telesope".This is a very well-done CD, with well-written songs. A CD I can listen to over and over again."
Elvis is still in the building
firstname.lastname@example.org | 11/11/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A vindicating return to form, all the more remarkable for the fact that many of these were old songs either not yet used or written for other artists, AND that he decided to try to recapture, one more time, the magic of making music with the Attractions. No reason that either of these tactics should have made for his best album of the 90's, in fact, his best since at least King of America, but, in fact, they do."