Following his second covers album, Kojak Variety, Elvis Costello set out to assemble a collection of songs he had written for other artists but never recorded himself -- sort of a reverse covers album. As it turned out, that idea was only used as a launching pad -- the resulting album, All This Useless Beauty, is a mixture of nine old and three new songs. Given its origins, it's surprising that the record holds together as well as it does. The main strength of All This Useless Beauty is the quality of the individual songs -- each song can stand on its own as an individual entity, as the music is as sharp as the lyrics. Although the music is certainly eclectic, it's accessible, which wasn't the case with Mighty Like a Rose. Furthermore, the production is more textured and punchier than Mitchell Froom's botched job on Brutal Youth. All This Useless Beauty doesn't quite add up to a major statement, but the simple pleasures it offers makes it one of the more rewarding records of the latter part of Costello's career.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine