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.