Last year, Elvis Costello reunited with The Imposters and released the gloriously gimmick-free rock record Momofuku, which drew very little buzz, even though it featured some of his catchiest melodies, snappiest lyrics, and most rollicking tempos in years.
Costello now follows Momofuku with Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, one of his all-too-frequent, all-too-predictable genre exercises. The new record contains a few flashes of actual entertainment: The raunchy "Sulphur To Sugarcane" is a lot of fun, and the older Costello songs "Hidden Shame" and "Complicated Shadows" remain infectious, even in the staid acoustic versions presented here.
But too much of Secret, Profane & Sugarcane finds Costello at his most strained and shouty, working against T-Bone Burnett’s low-key string-band arrangements. Like Momofuku, the new record was knocked out quickly, drawing heavily on material left over from other Costello projects, but while the looseness worked for the driving rock 'n' roll songs on Momofuku, the freeform ballads and back-to-basics roots workouts of Secret mostly fade into Burnett’s tasteful woodwork. Listening to the two albums back-to-back is like washing down a candy bar with steamed spinach.