Review Summary: Elvis Costello delivers his best effort in a long time, full of solid great tracks and outside contributions, making Momofuku a very solid album.
The name "Momofuku" is derived from the creator of the ramen noodle, Momofuku Ando. (Great picture here: http://tinyurl.com/5mw83e) It reflects the speed at which the record was produced - a quick burst of inspiration from the seasoned elder statesman of rock, Elvis Costello. It shows, but in an undeniably good way, the songs simple but effective in their arrangement, making this Costello’s best work since When I Was Cruel
. I consider Costello to be one of the best lyricists of the rock history, and this album is no exception, many songs heavy with political undertones. The album features vocals from, among others, Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley.
The album begins with a strong, politically motivated track, No Hiding Place
. “My, my, it's a terrible disgrace / You'll find these days that there's / No Hiding Place.” It’s backed by a slide guitar and of course that great organ from the man with one of the best names in the business, Steve Nieve (presumably pronounced like naïve). This is probably the strongest track on the album.
Costello counts off an upbeat American Gangster Time
, starting another solid organ-based track. “It’s a drag / Saluting that starry rag / I’d rather go blind / For speaking my mind / Than use it just like a gag.” A la Jonathan Richman, he ends the track with a “bye bye” and begins Turpentine
, a 6 minute long synthesizer-backed song. He’s backed by singers “ooohing” and repeating the chorus after him like rock doo-wop. Harry Worth
and Flutter and Wow
are the closest Costello gets to his Burt Bacharach years on the album. Both are pretty good cuts, but he gets back to his rock roots more with Drum and Bone
and Stella Hurt
, Drum and Bone being an especially strong track.
I’m not sure if “Drum” is the only track Jenny Lewis is featured on, but she’s heard most prominently on this one, whispering and singing softly behind Elvis, who’s playing acoustic guitar. “Still I'm trying to do the best I can / But I'm a limited, primitive kind of man.” Stella Hurt is another nice track, heavy on a distorted guitar riff. The last minute and a half or so of the song is the Imposters just jamming, playing around with distortion and feedback. Parts of Mr. Feathers
sounds like a McCartney piano ballad, others sounding like a circus tune with muted cymbals and a pipe organ.
My Three Sons
is an obviously autobiographical song. “Just see what I’ve become / The proud father of / My three sons.” On first glance, if you look alone at isolated lines like “I love you more than I can say,” it sounds a bit cheesy, but with Elvis Costello it hardly is, with lines like “Between the shame and the sentiment / For all the years that I might be absent.” Song with Rose
is another slide song, followed by Pardon Me Madam My Name Is Eve
, another acoustic based, slower track. The album ends with the louder Go Away
. The song begins fading into an organ groove. Elvis counts off “1… 2… 1, 2, 3, 4,” and… the song promptly continues the groove like nothing happened. These little things can get a bit annoying, like when he shouts, “to the bridge!” Still, these are hardly a big deal and definitely don’t lower the quality of the songs.
Overall, this is a very, very good album – not amazingly great, but undoubtedly his best album since When I Was Cruel
, and he still has no shortage of clever lyrics and toe-tapping songs, backed by a very proficient band. Costello simply knows how to write a song, and it still shows at 50-something in one of his finest true rock and roll works in a long time.
No Hiding Place
Drum And Bone