Unless you're a diehard completist, the last 10 or so years of Elvis Costello's career may not have been the most thrilling period to be a believer. 2002's noirish When I Was Cruel remains underappreciated, and 2006's The Delivery Man is an enjoyable retread of 1986's country-tinged King of America, but most everything else is hit or miss. From his forays into jazz, orchestral doodlings and the like, it's become clear that Costello has been more interested in demonstrating his diversity than playing to his greatest strengths.
But if that's the case, then consider the curiously titled Momofuku (Wiki it, if you care) a much needed retreat back to the Costello of yore-or at least the pissy, raucous lad of Blood and Chocolate, which is the other, slightly less revered of Costello's two 1986 albums that's become a sort of point of comparison for when he pulls out a pretty rockin' but not great record.
That's not to downplay the strengths of Momofuku, which lie chiefly in directness and simplicity. The songs here feel gloriously bashed out, resting on the spontaneity of the Imposters (E.C. directs his mates "to the bridge!" in "Flutter and Wow"), and of course the frontman's now-trademark Costelloisms (the snarly "Stella Hurt" sounds exactly like what you would think a "snarly" Elvis Costello song sounds like-and that is a beautiful thing).
As for the rest of the album, Costello, much like his old crony Nick Lowe, is not quite out of his fascination with country pickin', though the songs feel relaxed and unpretentious enough to give the album nice warmth. That's true of Momofuku as a whole-neither a step back nor overly concerned with where he's going, Costello simply has made a fine batch of songs that will rightfully turn heads again.