Ever since the brilliant sprint of Elvis Costello's first four or five albums, fans have been pining for the proverbial return to form.
Over the years, there have been plenty of contenders — 2002's When I Was Cruel and 2004's Delivery Man are the most recent — but Costello tends to lose himself in ambitious genre exercises, attempting, with mixed results, to master everything from country to classical.
Momofuku, named either for the inventor of instant noodles or a hip New York City eatery, was cut in a week by Costello, the Imposters (his classic Attractions lineup, less bassist Bruce Thomas) and a cast of young ringers, including Jenny Lewis and Jonathan Rice.
The album is available only as a digital download or two-LP set (a CD version is due later this month), and the vinyl format befits its loose, organic feel. Costello is as tuneful as ever, and whether he's revisiting his rock past ("No Hiding Place") or playing the leader of a dark lounge band ("Harry Worth"), he's relaxed and in his element.
The new songs aren't exactly rock, pop, alt-country or neo-new wave, though they contain elements of those and other styles. Even if it's not as essential as his late-'70s masterpieces, Momofuku is unmistakably an Elvis Costello record.