Release Date: May 6, 2008
Record label: Lost Highway
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.
After Elvis broke up the Attractions and went to Warner Bros. in 1987, his output famously fragmented into genre experiments and occasional returns to hard driving pop material. Critics and fans split on the genre experiments (I seem to be the only unapologetic fan of the Juliet Letters) but the pop music always seems to be heralded as a “return to form”.
The title might sound like something Elvis Costello would mutter with a mouthful of bran flakes while reading an unfavourable review at the breakfast table, but it’s actually the name of a popular New York noodle restaurant. This second album for Lost Highway isn’t radically different from 2004’s return to sneering form The Delivery Man, only the rockin’ tracks sound slightly less raucous and the ballads not quite as bitter. So he’s back in Attractions mode, sans the old piss and vinegar.
The latest batch of Elvis Costello songs is characteristically mysterious. At one point, the prolific song shape-shifter claimed to have sworn off recording, but Momofuku's appearance materializes as if out of a ramen package: instantaneous. (Momofuku Ando invented the noodle convenience.) Unlike recent Costello discs, there's no theme or concept, just 12 tunes in a familiar style, some mad rock with a dash of soul and country, and wordplay so furious it's difficult to keep up.