Thursday, June 05, 2008

Momofuku – Elvis Costello

A few months ago I saw that the Police were going to be playing the Arena in Grand Rapids and I thought "that's cool." But when I saw that Elvis Costello was the opening act I jumped at the chance and decided that it was worth the money. That prompted me to rediscover and discover (thanks to Bethany) much of Costello's extensive catalog. To put the icing on the cake, he had a new album, Momofuku, coming out on CD five days before the show I had tickets for. Perfect.

So I spent a lot of time with some of Elvis' albums reminding myself that I really liked My Aim is True, Mighty Like a Rose and his collaboration with Anne-Sofie Von Otter, For the Stars. I learned to love North and All This Useless Beauty and I once again was astonished at how Costello jumps from genre to genre all the while keeping his sense of melody and interesting chord structures. I will admit that his classical piece, Il Sogno, didn't do much for me, sounding somewhat like a soundtrack to nothing. But overall I was really really impressed. So when I read that Momofuku was Elvis with the Imposters, the same band that had done When I Was Cruel and the Delivery Man I wasn't real excited (because those aren't among my favorite EC records) but figured I'd pay 10 bucks so that I'd know the new music for the show.

I'm really glad I did because Momofuku sounds fresh, energetic and engaging in a way that many of Elvis' other recent albums don't. I like almost all of the songs and the performances are not over-thought. The album came about very quickly – hence the name, a reference to the inventor of instant noodles. Costello had no intention of making a record but when his band fell into place at a session for the next Jenny Lewis record he couldn't resist. This format suits Costello well and the album has an urgency that is infectious. From the open track, "No Hiding Place" to the finale "Go Away" Costello's legendary lyrical directness is in full force. And while it didn't jump out at me at first, hearing him perform "Flutter and Wow" in concert has made that song one of my all time favorites. Momofuku is an album that is best enjoyed if you're in the mood to listen closely but not too closely, to think about what you're hearing but not too much and to enjoy a great record rather than listen to the NEXT BIG ARTISTIC STATEMENT. But that is the main strength of this record - because Costello seemed to not try so hard to make that big statement he succeeded in make a great little pop record that's worth repeated listenings.

1 comment:

bethany said...

I've listened to Momofuku a few times now and I find that I agree with you and the other reviews. It's a great album, and what makes it great is the live feeling of it - It has the excitement and energy of jamming on something new and fun. That's why I especially like the part in "Flutter and Wow" when he shouts "to the bridge!". I wonder if non-musicians have the same feeling of being there for the fun?