Monday, February 23, 2009

Elvis Costello 26: Momofuku

With Elvis reveling in his disgust of the state of the record industry, the announcement of a new album called Momofuku sounded like another typical Costello red herring. Internet sleuths thought it was a reference to a Manhattan restaurant, but it turned out that the inspiration was the eponymous man who invented ramen noodles.
All this speculation—which wasn’t helped by initial reports that it would only be available on vinyl—was moot when we finally got to hear the music. The songs were recorded as quickly as they were written, with the two notable exceptions being collaborations with Roseanne Cash and Loretta Lynn. The Imposters provide the backbone, while a handful of young musicians a couple of generations removed fill out the sound without getting in the way.
After the smoother pop and jazz elements of the last couple of albums, this time it’s mostly back to the welcome clamor he played so well. “No Hiding Place” is a great opener, pointing a not-so-subtle finger at those Internet sleuths. “American Gangster Time” follows with more political anger, and from there the noise becomes a matter of taste. The least successful tracks attempt to pull puns out of names (“Stella Hurt”, “Harry Worth”, “Mr. Feathers”) and fail to connect, but it’s the comparatively gentler songs that win here, from “Flutter And Wow” with its shades of Brian Wilson, the tender apology and lullabye of “My Three Sons” and the haunting “Song With Rose”.
He was starting to take his sweet time between albums again, but it was clear that like the elder statesmen he was beginning to emulate, when he felt like saying something, it was worth hearing, and on that level, Momofuku didn’t disappoint. Since he was insisting that his income came from live performances and not from album releases anymore, we could only guess when we’d hear from him again.

Elvis Costello and the Imposters Momofuku (2008)—

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