TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 29 May 2008
Recorded in a week and originally released on vinyl only, 'Momofuku' (named after the inventor of instant cup noodles) is a very pleasant surprise from Costello who had recently, in interview, said that he had no plans to release any new material for a while. There is no cause to believe that Elvis was bluffing at the time because this whole album happened organically when he turned up to provide vocals for a Jenny Lewis album and, having the Imposters there (who were also working with Lewis) the personnel and location led to Elvis being inspired to write and record a new album right there and then. The immediacy and energy which sparked and influenced the recording of 'Momofuku' has culminated in Elvis & The Imposters releasing a truly brilliant album which sporadically sports an early-career Attractions sound but is, from start to finish, a genuine treat for the longtime Elvis Costello fan and well as any lovers of great music who perhaps haven't discovered the full extent of his genius just yet..
So, that's the preamble - now for the music itself.
Starting proceedings, the immediately arresting 'No Hiding Place' is Elvis at his catchiest and, given the fact that the whole album was recorded so quickly, sounds incredibly well-formed and polished, especially the backing vocals of the 'supergroup' (Jenny Lewis, Johnathan Rice, Dave Scher and bassist Davey Faragher). The high-quality feel of the album continues with the superb 'American Gangster Time', another instant Costello classic. The first thing that hits you about it is the brilliant Steve Nieve Vox Continental organ-line, reminiscent, in parts, of 'Pump It Up'. Boasting a powerful, stomping ending, it really is brilliant, urgent, vital stuff and would, I hazard a guess, sound fantastic live.
'Turpentine', a very enjoyable rhythmic track, featuring an almost tribal tom-tom beat from Pete, has a moody feel to the verse and then an uplifting chorus, giving the track an interesting, varied texture. Next up we have 'Harry Worth', a laid-back, jazzy song, which is the first track on the album reminiscent of late 80's/early 90's solo Elvis material rather than his Attractions days. Following that, 'Drum And Bone' is a low-key, foot-tapping and yet vaguely menacing song in which Elvis proclaims that he's a "limited, primitive kind of man" - a case of lyrics and music working in perfect harmony on this particular composition.
The next track, 'Flutter & Wow', could have easily been a track from Elvis' collaboration album with Allen Toussaint (The River In Reverse), being a rather lovely, gentle, melodic and soulful track performed with real passion. However - as a direct and possibly deliberate contrast - the following track, 'Stella Hurt', is a incredibly catchy, minor-key, mid-paced rocker which harnesses some of that early album energy and highlights the powerful drumming of Pete Thomas' daughter, Tennessee, and the accentuating, punctuating organ of Nieve.
'Mr. Feathers', a piano-driven stroll, whilst bringing to mind tracks from 'Spike', also reminds me of the character-based songwriting of Ray Davies, but - regardless of the musical references it conjures up - it's a brilliant original song. As is 'My Three Sons', a straightforwardly sentimental tribute to his sons which, in the hands of many other artists, could easily have sounded ham-fisted, slushy or sugary but Elvis handles the subject matter with sophisticated, genuine sincerity and his love shines through in such a way that we're able to share it rather than merely observe.
'Song With Rose' (co-written with Roseanne Cash), appears to be a slightly unremarkable song at first, but - if you give it a couple of listens - the beauty of the composition slowly reveals itself, especially during the climax of the piece. Steve's subtle piano-work really shines as do Elvis' vocals. Immediately, 'Pardon Me Madam, My Name Is Eve' (co-written with Loretta Lynn) reminded me of 'Less Than Zero' and, while it - as a whole - lacks a little of the immediacy and youth of 'My Aim Is True' era-McManus, is it an oddly-satisfying mix of the old rock and new country flavours of Costello's work. The album closer, 'Go Away', is another classic, mid-paced Imposters rocker, featuring a very groovy beat and an immensely catchy 'Brutal Youth'-esque chorus, wrapping up the proceedings very nicely indeed.
Simply put, 'Momofuku' is yet another highlight in a career literally filled with highlights. I would have to put this wholly satisfying album alongside 'When I Was Cruel' and 'The Delivery Man' in terms of content and quality and am absolutely delighted to have another album of such fantastic original material from Elvis and the Imposters. With every listen, a little more of the album is absorbed and my love of this record just grows and grows. Without doubt, a solid five stars for this truly great release.