by Elvis Costello & the Imposters


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Originally Momofuku was going to be released only on vinyl and digital download, an expression of Elvis Costello's frustration with the State of the Record Industry in 2008, but those plans soon changed, turning the album into a standard release yet not removing a sense of confusion surrounding its sudden appearance, as it arrived just after Costello publicly swore off ever recording again (or performing in the U.K., but that's another matter for another time). The very title of the record was a source of mystery, as it was suggested that it could perhaps be named after David Chang's string of N.Y.C. restaurants, but Costello clarified the situation by explaining that he and Chang shared a similar love of Momofuku Ando, the man who invented cup noodles. Such squawking over foodie arcana leaves little question that Momofuku the album exists where the air is rarefied but, as always with Elvis, words have meaning -- as this record sprang to life in an instant, just like a bowl of ramen noodles. Invited to sing on Jenny Lewis' follow-up to Rabbit Fur Coat, an album he praised publicly, Costello arrived in a studio where half of his Imposters were already working on the record -- along with Tennessee Thomas, the daughter of longtime Costello drummer Pete, and Lewis' boyfriend Johnathan Rice -- and before long a couple of new Elvis originals were cut alongside the planned songs for Jenny, and that snowballed into the quickly written, quickly recorded, quickly released Momofuku. That quicksilver speed is the key to Momofuku, and what separates it from all the albums Elvis Costello has cut in the decade since he signed with Universal. Almost every record from 1998's Painted from Memory on has had a conceptual thrust -- even 2002's When I Was Cruel was designed as a back-to-basics record -- but not this. It's merely a collection of 12 songs, all bashed out in a matter of weeks, not an album that's been labored over for months. Ironically enough, that rush of creative energy gives Momofuku a unified feel so it holds together as well, if not better, than such recent records as When I Was Cruel, which felt too deliberate in its classicism, or The Delivery Man, which was only wanting for the kinetic energy that this has in spades. That dynamic energy is down entirely to the speed of conception, how the record was cut in a short enough span so that Lewis, Rice, and Dave Scher (of Beachwood Sparks and All Night Radio) could lend harmonies throughout the record, lending a grace to the clattering "Turpentine." As the only female here, Lewis naturally stands out from the pack, but she's also given the opportunity to stand toe to toe with Costello, such as on the superb closer, "Go Away," as simple and addictive a song as he's written in years. Much of Momofuku is indeed this direct, at least in its construction -- applying equally to the old-fashioned ballad "Flutter & Wow" as it does to such lean rockers as "American Gangster Time" -- but the lyrics are as expertly crafted and wryly sophisticated as any latter-day Costello record. This sophistication can creep into the music as well, as the loungey puns of "Harry Worth," the clenched, dense rhythms of "Stella Hurt," and the cabaret shuffle of "Mr. Feathers" all recall a Spike recorded sans accoutrements. Again, that's where the speed of this whole enterprise works in its favor, as it makes these digressions seem funny, not fussy, and that's ultimately the charm of Momofuku: it captures a loose, natural Elvis Costello, somebody who hasn't been captured on record in years. It's still a Costello who plugs Lexus, writes operas, and plays jazz festivals, but here he's not trying to prove anything; he's just making music, and that's why it's one of his most enjoyable latter-day records.

Product Details

Release Date: 05/06/2008
Label: Lost Highway
UPC: 0602517665835
catalogNumber: 001110902

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Elvis Costello & the Imposters   Primary Artist
Elvis Costello   Organ,Guitar,Piano,Vocals,Background Vocals,Guitar (Baritone)
Steve Nieve   Organ,Clavinet,Melodica,Wurlitzer,Piano (Grand),Pianette,Vox Continental
Davey Faragher   Bass,Vocals,Background Vocals
David Hidalgo   Guitar,Viola,Hidalguera
Pete Thomas   Drums
Jonathan Wilson   Guitar,Vocals,12-string Guitar
Jenny Lewis   Vocals,Harmony Vocals
Johnathan Rice   Guitar,Vocals
Farmer Dave Scher   Organ,Pedal Steel Guitar,Vocals,Lap Steel Guitar
Tennessee Thomas   Drums

Technical Credits

Elvis Costello   Producer,Vocal Group
Davey Faragher   Vocal Group
David Hidalgo   Vocal Group
Jonathan Wilson   Vocal Group
Jenny Lewis   Vocal Group
Jason Lader   Producer,Engineer
Johnathan Rice   Vocal Group
Farmer Dave Scher   Vocal Group
Zach Cordner   Portrait Photography

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Momofuku 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Elvis Costello hasn't exactly been making lousy records these past 8 years-- in fact, 2006's River In Reverse with Allen Toussaint was nothing short of fantastic-- but MOMOFUKU is the single most purely ENJOYABLE Costello record since 1994's Brutal Youth. The Imposters are here, joined by Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley and a few other special guests, playing a fresh batch of Costello songs. They're not collaborations (well, MOST of them aren't-- Loretta Lynn and Roseanne Cash co-wrote a couple of tracks), they're not outtakes from an unfinished opera or musical theater project, and they're not part of some overall "concept." This is just 12 new songs, recorded quickly and with great energy. This would actually make a great "starter" album-- the one you could loan to someone who has never heard a Costello album before, the one that would get them hooked, asking for more....
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