Friday, March 30, 2012

Spinning Songbook Countdown: All This Useless Beauty

The Attractions are back! For one final record.

After a series of tours with the reformed Attractions promoting Brutal Youth, the lineup followed Costello into the studio to make yet another excellent Pop record. Released in 1996, All This Useless Beauty is not much of a rocker but an album more in line with the more subdued songs in Imperial Bedroom. In fact, those albums share the same producer, Geoff Emerick.

The Attractions are once again in top form guiding listeners to a variety of musical styles, from the lush Pop of "All This Useless Beauty," to the Soul rhythm in "Why Can't A Man Stand Alone." The band performance in "Complicated Shadows" is particularly captivating, Costello starts the song slowly with a menacing Country tone before the band comes in without restraint. Sadly this would be the last album with the original Attractions. Costello and a bassists Bruce Thomas never really buried the hatchet.

I'm also a fan of "Poor Fracture Atlas" as slow song showcasing Steve Nieve on the piano and another excellent Costello vocal performance, his voice sounds great throughout the album. With a hypnotizing piano melody, Costello examines misunderstood manhood in one of his saddest songs. "I Want to Vanish" is another distinctive weeper, this time performed with The Brodsky Quartet.

I liked this album, it's possibly his most fully formed Pop album. Each song is different without any tune clashing with the others. Costello's voice is at his best and the production combines it near perfectly with the Attractions' performance. The band would follow Costello again on a world wide tour, which Bruce Thomas again documented in book form. He would not return again. 

Classics:  The Other End of the Telescope, All This Useless Beauty, Complicated Shadows, It's Time, I Want to Vanish

Songs I'd like to hear live: Little Atoms, Complicated Shadows, Poor Fractured Atlas, It's Time

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