July 2008

Elvis Costello and the Imposters - Momofuku
Lost Highway B0011109-02
Format: CD
Released: 2008

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

Elvis Costello released Momofuku on vinyl two weeks before the CD version hit stores because, as he writes on his website, "…this is how it sounds the best: with a needle in a groove, the way the Supreme Being intended it to be." Nice to know Costello still loves vinyl, and by the time you read this I hope to have the LP in my possession. Costello’s restless musical curiosity leads him in many directions, but when he returns to rock‘n’roll he doesn’t sound like he’s slumming -- he still believes in it. The guitars on Momofuku (named after the inventor of Ramen instant noodles) roar from overdriven amps, and even as Costello’s vocal skills have grown, he still knows how to snarl out a lyric.

Momofuku is densely recorded, and one of the pleasures of listening to it is hearing what sounds bubble to the surface. Hints of earlier Costello albums spring to mind along the way. The first three tracks have the caustic drive of Get Happy!! (1980) and Blood and Chocolate (1986), while "Mr. Feathers" and the unexpectedly tender "My Three Sons" exhibit the pop sophistication of Imperial Bedroom. Costello isn’t repeating himself as much as taking advantage of the broad vocabulary of pop styles he’s mastered. His band, the Imposters, aids him by being able to play anything he asks, and he’s also helped here by David Hidalgo (of Los Lobos) and young songwriter Jonathan Rice, among others.

Costello says Momofuku was recorded quickly (hence the title), but it certainly has the momentum and passion of inspiration.