Elvis Costello & The Imposters
John Metzger's #11 album for 2008
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2008, Volume 15, #6
Written by John Metzger
Tue June 10, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT
In the digital era, where song shuffling is the name of the game, it certainly is nice to know that at least one guy hasnít forgotten the art of making an album. Thank God for that. Not only did Elvis Costello record his latest outing Momofuku in a mere nine days with a minimum of fuss, but to drive home his level of frustration with the industry, he also issued the set on vinyl, weeks before it was released on disc. The collection clearly benefits from its presentation as a two-sided affair, and the sequencing of the material follows the pattern of the long-playing records of the past. Most important, Costello seems to have had the time of his life creating Momofuku, and the result is a riveting, inspired outing that wonít test the patience of those who have grown weary of his wildly ambitious side treks.
Of course, ever since he made his debut in 1977 with My Aim Is True, Costello has been marching to the beat of his own drum. Not surprisingly, then, his career subsequently has taken more twists and turns than a mountain pass. Sometimes, though, Costello has made it exceedingly difficult for his fans to follow him on his journey. While there always has been an undeniable air of intelligence lurking within his work, the unabashed, visceral assault of his early recordings has given way, over the years, to the cerebral constructs of his diversions with The Brodsky Quartet (The Juliet Letters), Burt Bacharach (Painted from Memory), Anne Sofie von Otter (For the Stars), and The Metropole Orkest (My Flame Burns Blue), to name a few. Instead of targeting the lowest common denominator, Costello has challenged his audience to stick with him through thick and thin. Given a chance, all of his efforts have proven themselves to be rewarding, and, like them or not, thereís no arguing the fact that he nobly has given everything he has to following his artistic Muse.
Momofuku begins with No Hiding Place, a harsh, bilious indictment of the online world. Immediately, it is clear that the endeavor is a bit of a departure from Costelloís outings of late. Instead of pushing himself to move in one direction or another, he revisits in a scattershot fashion the paths on which he previously had tread. Everything from the icy stabs of garage rock that he swiped from ? and the Mysterians to the Buddy Holly-does-Bo Diddley backbeats that he seems to adore and from Bob Dylanís condescending snarl to the psychedelic excursions of The Beatles has been embedded into Momofukuís framework. Costello even found room to croon a jazz-and-soul number (Flutter & Wow) as well as to tackle tunes he wrote with Rosanne Cash and Loretta Lynn (Song with Rose and Pardon Me, Madam, My Name Is Eve, respectively).
Considering its intensity, there is no way that Momofukuís genesis could have been anything other than a spur-of-the-moment proposition. Sure enough, Costello was in the midst of contributing to Jenny Lewisí forthcoming solo endeavor when the inspiration struck him to begin working on Momofuku. In addition to The Imposters, Costello also received assistance from Lewis, Johnathan Rice, David Hidalgo, and Dave Scher, and the recordings that they rapidly created exude the kind of spontaneous combustibility that one might expect.
While all of its songs were smartly conceived, the speed at which Momofuku was recorded left Costello with little time to contemplate the arrangements and make them overly complex. It has been years since he has made an album that sounds this urgent. Oddly enough, after peering beneath the surface of the tracks, one also is apt to find that he essentially traced his output from This Yearís Model to Mighty Like a Rose to Brutal Youth, thus maintaining an astonishing level of diversity in his approach. Taken in full, Momofuku is a delightfully messy endeavor that ultimately congeals around the fact that it provides such a brilliant summation of Costelloís variegated career.
Of Further Interest...
Momofuku is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box