New Zealand Herald, June 12, 2008

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Elvis Costello and The Imposters

Russell Baillie


Any description of a "return to form" with Elvis Costello should come with a rider: Which one?

In the more recent of his 30 or so years as songwriter-in-a-league-above, he's constantly challenged himself and his following with albums of high-craft and intriguing concept — song cycles, jazz and classical excursions, duets with old masters like his 2006 The River in Reverse, his politically-charged New Orleans stomp with Allen Toussaint.

But as the band name attached to his name implies here, this isn't the art-Elvis or collaboration-Elvis which has popped up with increasingly regularity.

This is the rock-Elvis, who has made fairly regular appearances in the last decade.

But even given his consistency, Momofuku still brings with it a vitality, an anger, and an infectious directness. That might have something to do with how concise it is. Momofuku was originally planned to be a vinyl-only release of its 12 tracks — a proclamation of Costello about the album as a dying artform.

But here it is on CD with Costello and his Impostors (two thirds of his original backers, the Attractions) ripping through the dozen tracks — and a couple of stylistic hops from power-pop to lounge to country — in breezy style.

Throughout, Costello shows he can still graft a barbed lyric to a hooky tune of chugging guitars and Steve Nieve's swirling organs.

That's whether he's getting grumpy at internet culture on opener "No Hiding Place," saying something about the state of the nation on "American Gangster Time," or offering all sorts of echoes of those early years on the fuzzy freak-out of "Stella Hurt."

There is also Costello the no-longer-angry-young-man, whether it's the autobiographical family portrait in the ballad "My Three Sons," recalling his hard-drinking days above the Bo Diddley beat of "Turpentine," or offering a country-soul lateral-minded love song on "Flutter and Wow."

There's echoes too of Costello's own sixties roots on the Beatlesque ivory-tickler "Mr Feathers" and the beatpop of "Drum and Bone."

It all helps make Momofuku almost instantly enjoyable and comes highly recommended to those who stopped following his musical wanderings a while ago. You can always rely on Costello for craftsmanship but this one carries his rock artistry off with an unbridled spiky energy. And it does more than just tick that return-to-form box.


The New Zealand Herald, June 12, 2008

Russell Baillie reviews Momofuku.


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