ROCK

Elvis Costello & The Attractions "All This Useless Beauty"

Elvis Costello & The Attractions "All This Useless Beauty"

Warner Bros, 9362-46198-2 (48 mins) Dial-a-track code 1201

1994's Brutal Youth saw the killer combo of Elvis, Steve Nieve, Pete Thomas and Bruce Thomas return with a bang on the head. The foursome's first Nineties effort was all fists and fury, deftly dealt by the agile foursome which created some of the best albums of the previous two decades. All This Useless Beauty, in contrast, is, a graceful dance through the china shop, and the songs weave expertly around the delicate emotions and fragile egos which fill this particular musical parlour, knocking off the odd's vase just for the hell of it.

The album starts off with the distant, longing The Other End Of The Telescope, written by Costello and' Aimee Mann, then stays low key for Little Atoms and All This Useless Beauty, Costello examining the cracked veneer of human frailty and fallibility. Complicated Shadows hangs on a reined in rock riff, while Distorted Angel floats on a dark, rain drenched bass line and a baby doll keyboard signature. Shallow Grave, co written with Paul McCartney, and Starting To Come To Me are typical Attractions style country rock wig outs, but You Bowed Down is a vintage Elvis jangle which wouldn't sound amiss on Armed Forces. Costello's other collaborators The Brodsky Quartet join him for the closer, I Want To Vanish, a last letter from the emotional wilderness.

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As usual, Costello is in biting form, writing lyrics which cut to the bone and wrap up the ironies of life in a shroud of phrase. All This Useless Beauty is probably The Attractions' most varied album yet, and not all the styles pass the litmus test, but at least the chemistry is still there.

The Cure "Wild Mood Swings"

Fiction, FIXCD 28 5317932 (62 mins) Dial a track code 1311

It's wild, it's moody and it swings from a particularly large, brightly lit chandelier. Wild Mood Swings sees The Cure retaining its Gothic architecture, but adding a few flavours of Rio, and donning some bright, colourful masques for a dark, delicious danse macabre. The feel is upbeat, with songs like Club America and Mint Car providing the festive flavours, but there are still demons lurking in Robert Smith's psyche, and he's quite happy to let them loose in This Is A Lie and Numb. Overall, the most well rounded Cure album since The Head On The Door.

Everything But The Girl "Walking Wounded"

Virgin, 7243 8 41698 2 4 (52 mins) Dial-a-track code 1421

Pop's most admired acoustic guitar plucking duo have been turning our preconceptions upside down of late. First, there was the cool collaboration with Bristol trip hoppers Massive Attack, then came the massive and unexpected success of Missing, a typical EBTG tune which was magically transformed into a megabit by a simple remix. Nothing could ever be the same again for Tracy Thorn and Ben Watt, and if you're looking for any gently strummed versions of Rod Stewart hits, you won't find them around here, pal. Drum'n'bass is the predominant element on Walking Wounded, and Tracy Thorn's lush linear vocals contrast nicely with Ben Watt's quick fire break beats and rich, sweeping keyboards, making songs, like Wrong, Single and The Heart, Remains A Child resonate nicely in'.' the sub stratosphere of the brain. There's still a few folksy acoustic guitar touches, but the real heart and soul has already been programmed in.

Terrorvision "Regular Urban Survivors"

Total Vegas, 7243 8 37626 2 0 (42. mins)

Dial-a-track code 1531

These Bradford lads might sound like regular rock blokes, but there's a' secret agent's after ego lurking beneath the chrome and metal sheen." The follow up to How To Win Friends And Influence People goes all 007 Bondage, the band posing with guns, girls, E-type jags and speedboats. Song titles like Enteralterego, Hide The Dead Girl and Conspiracy add to the espionage and intrigue, while the' band's gunmetal rock sound is tempered with cinematic touches and comedic moments. Didn't Bleed Red is a jazzy grungy theme for a Fifties Files, and Dog Chewed The Handle is a clued up whodunnit, doggy style. Best tracks are the insistent, infectious Perseverance and the straight shooting Celebrity Hit List.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist