All This Useless Beauty

All This Useless Beauty is the seventeenth studio album by the English singer-songwriter Elvis Costello, released in 1996 by Warner Brothers. It peaked at number 28 on the UK album chart, and at No. 53 on the Billboard 200. It is his final album with his long-standing backing band known as 'The Attractions', and the last album he delivered under his contract to the Warner Brothers label, his contract expiring with a further compilation album, Extreme Honey.

All This Useless Beauty
Studio album by
Released14 May 1996
LabelWarner Bros.
Rhino (11 August 2001)
ProducerGeoff Emerick and Elvis Costello
Elvis Costello and The Attractions chronology
Jake's Progress
All This Useless Beauty
Costello & Nieve
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[1]
Chicago Tribune3.5/4 stars[2]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[3]
The Guardian4/5 stars[4]
Los Angeles Times3/4 stars[5]
Q4/5 stars[8]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[9]
Uncut4/5 stars[10]


In its original conception, the album was to be a two-disc set of songs written for other artists, entitled A Case for Song, with backing by a diverse array of musicians, influenced by his participation in the 1995 Meltdown Festival.[11] Aspects of this concept survived to the final album, as four songs previously released by others made it to the final track listing: "The Other End Of The Telescope," co-written with Aimee Mann and originally recorded by 'Til Tuesday; "You Bowed Down," recorded by Roger McGuinn; "All This Useless Beauty" and "I Want to Vanish," recorded by June Tabor.[12] The title is a sarcastic reference to what Costello thought would be the fate of the album.[13]

Instead, Costello hired the Attractions, and recorded the songs at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin and Westside Studios in London with Geoff Emerick producing & engineered by Jon Jacobs. "Complicated Shadows" had been intended for Johnny Cash, and "Why Can't A Man Stand Alone?" for Sam Moore, but neither singer elected to record them.[14] Another of his collaborations with Paul McCartney appears, "Shallow Grave".

Unusually, six tracks were released as singles in either the United Kingdom or the United States; "It's Time", "Little Atoms", "The Other End of the Telescope", "Distorted Angel", "All This Useless Beauty" and "You Bowed Down". Only "It's Time" charted, and only in the UK, peaking at #58.

Release historyEdit

The album was released initially on compact disc, cassette & LP in 1996. As part of the Rhino Records reissue campaign for Costello's back catalogue from Demon/Columbia and Warners, it was re-released in 2001 with 17 additional tracks on a bonus disc. Additional tracks continued the album's initial concept, tracks intended for recording by or in collaboration with other artists.[15] "The Days Take Care of Themselves" and "The Comedians" had been written for Roy Orbison, his recording of the latter appearing on Mystery Girl, while "The Only Flame in Town" had been intended for Aaron Neville. "The World's Great Optimist," another collaboration with Aimee Mann, appeared on her Bachelor No. 2 album, and Johnny Cash recorded "Hidden Shame" on Boom Chicka Boom.[15] This reissue is out of print, the album reissued again by Universal Music Group after its acquisition of Costello's complete catalogue in 2006.

Track listingEdit

All tracks written by Elvis Costello, except where noted; track lengths taken from the 2001 Rhino reissue.

  1. "The Other End of the Telescope" (Costello, Aimee Mann) – 4:06
  2. "Little Atoms" – 3:58
  3. "All This Useless Beauty" – 4:39
  4. "Complicated Shadows" – 4:43
  5. "Why Can't a Man Stand Alone?" – 3:14
  6. "Distorted Angel" – 4:31
  7. "Shallow Grave" (MacManus, Paul McCartney) – 2:07
  8. "Poor Fractured Atlas" – 4:02
  9. "Starting to Come to Me" – 2:43
  10. "You Bowed Down" – 4:55
  11. "It's Time" – 6:00
  12. "I Want to Vanish" – 3:16

2001 bonus discEdit

Tracks 4, 6, 7, and 9–16 are solo demo recordings.

  1. "Almost Ideal Eyes" – 4:23 (released as the b-side to "Little Atoms" in the UK and "You Bowed Down" in the US)
  2. "My Dark Life" (with Brian Eno) – 6:25 (released on Songs in the Key of X)
  3. "That Day Is Done" (with The Fairfield Four) (MacManus, McCartney) – 5:11 (released on I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray)
  4. "What Do I Do Now?" (Louise Wener) – 4:29 (released on 17 Volume (Fifth Birthday Bumper Bonanza!)
  5. "The Bridge I Burned" – 5:23 (released on Extreme Honey)
  6. "It's Time" – 4:00
  7. "Complicated Shadows" – 2:27
  8. "You Bowed Down" – 4:21 (demo with The Attractions)
  9. "Mistress and Maid" (MacManus, McCartney) – 2:20
  10. "Distorted Angel" – 2:33
  11. "World's Greatest Optimist" (Costello, Mann) – 2:34
  12. "The Only Flame in Town" – 4:14
  13. "The Comedians" – 3:09
  14. "The Days Take Care of Everything" – 4:00
  15. "Hidden Shame" – 3:59
  16. "Why Can't a Man Stand Alone" – 3:01
  17. "Distorted Angel" (Tricky remix) – 5:35 (released as the b-side to "All This Useless Beauty" in the US and "You Bowed Down" in the UK)


The Attractions

Additional musicians



Year Chart Position
1996 Billboard 200 53


Year Title Chart Position
1996 "It's Time" UK Singles Chart[16] 58


  1. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "All This Useless Beauty – Elvis Costello / Elvis Costello & the Attractions". AllMusic. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  2. ^ Caro, Mark (16 May 1996). "Elvis Costello and the Attractions: All This Useless Beauty (Warner)". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  3. ^ Willman, Chris (17 May 1996). "All This Useless Beauty". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  4. ^ Sweeting, Adam (17 May 1996). "Elvis Costello & The Attractions: All This Useless Beauty (Warner Bros.)". The Guardian.
  5. ^ Scribner, Sara (12 May 1996). "Elvis Costello 'All This Useless Beauty' (Warner Bros.)". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  6. ^ Morton, Roger (11 May 1996). "Elvis Costello – All This Useless Beauty". NME. Archived from the original on 6 October 2000. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  7. ^ Schreiber, Ryan (1 May 1996). "Elvis Costello: All This Useless Beauty [with The Attractions]". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 12 March 2007. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  8. ^ Aizlewood, John (June 1996). "Lonesome". Q (117).
  9. ^ "Joni Mitchell: Hits / Elvis Costello: All This Useless Beauty". Rolling Stone. 19 December 1996. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  10. ^ Doggett, Peter (November 2001). "Brilliant Mistakes". Uncut (54): 110.
  11. ^ Costello, Elvis. All This Useless Beauty. Rhino Records R2 74284, 2001, liner notes, p. 3.
  12. ^ Millman, Joyce (18 April 1996). "Elvis and his Idols". Archived from the original on 24 April 2007. Retrieved 20 June 2010.
  13. ^ Costello, p. 7.
  14. ^ Costello, p. 8.
  15. ^ a b Costello, pp. 7–8.
  16. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 122–3. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.