Elvis Costello & the Attractions

The midtempo "Betray Those Little Atoms With a Kiss," accented by some Lou Reed-ish distortion guitar, seemed a bit impenetrable, but the stately "All This Useless Beauty," country stomper "Starting to Come to Me Now" and especially the edgy, tough "Complicated Shadows" (written for Johnny Cash) make for welcome additions to Costello's considerable catalog.

The midtempo “Betray Those Little Atoms With a Kiss,” accented by some Lou Reed-ish distortion guitar, seemed a bit impenetrable, but the stately “All This Useless Beauty,” country stomper “Starting to Come to Me Now” and especially the edgy, tough “Complicated Shadows” (written for Johnny Cash) make for welcome additions to Costello’s considerable catalog.

Group also delivered such unreleased songs as the punchy, defiant “Small Shallow Grave” (co-written with Paul McCartney), heartstoppingly gorgeous soul smolderer “Why Can’t a Man Stand Alone” and the rather windily melodramatic “God Give Me Strength”– co-written “by fax” with Burt Bacharach, no less.

The group has tightened considerably since its 1994 reunion tour, and bashed out a number of favorites, from a radical reworking of “Temptation” into a torchy, piano-only number, to a near-metallic “Accidents Will Happen.”

That Costello and the Attractions are again a working unit comes as splendid news for fans. On this evidence, the new album could be a killer.

Elvis Costello & the Attractions

(Beacon Theater, New York; 2,755 capacity; $ 30)

Production: Presented by Delsener/Slater Enterprises. Band: Costello, Steve Nieve, Bruce Thomas, Pete Thomas. Opened, reviewed Aug. 2, 1995; closed Aug. 7. Less of the advertised open rehearsal than a good-timey grab bag of old and new tunes, Elvis Costello's continuing rapprochement with his ace band the Attractions just keeps getting better. Despite claims that the group is still shaping the new songs before heading into the studio this fall, there were no apparent missteps, false starts or tentative performances. And while Costello's trademark wordplay was somewhat lost in a mix that bounced from shrill to sludge and all points in between, newer material seems even sharper than that on his last Warner Bros. album, "Brutal Youth."

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