Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spinning Songbook Countdown: Momofuku

We have Jenny Lewis to thank for this album. It may not have happened without her.

Just before this release, Costello had been adamant that he would not be releasing any new material, telling Word Magazine in an interview published in March 2008 that something like 60 discs have come out with his name on it, "let the blood soak into ground for a while."

A month later, Momofuku - possibly Costello's most perplexing album title ever- was released quietly, which is too bad because this album is meant to be played loud!

Momofuku was recorded the first months of 2008, following Costello's guest appearance during the recording of Lewis' second and vastly under-rated album Acid Tongue.

The album was cut quickly with the Imposters in the same studio as Acid Tongue and with some of the same players. Jenny Lewis provides backing vocals as well Johnathan Rice, "Farmer" Dave Scher. David Hidalgo from Los Lobos joins on a couple of songs and Pete Thomas' daughter Tennessee also drums.

The spontaneous recording, the fantastic guests and an oddball title make this one of Costello's most enjoyable releases.

"No Hiding Place" kicks off a three-punch attack of perfect pop rock, followed by "American Gangster Time" and "Turpentine" each featuring Steve Nieve's trademark keyboards. The vocal supergroup and the father-daughter drum team give "Turpentine" a searing, alien atmosphere.

"Harry Worth" tells the story of a couple whose relationship keeps deteriorating with each Elvis Costello appearance in their town. "Flutter &Wow" carries the opposite sentiment in a soul-inflected love letter to his wife, Diana Krall.

"Stella Hurt" is a hard rocking number based on the story of a forgotten singer from the '20s. "Mr. Feathers" follows with a cabaret tune about a woman's encounter with a seedy figure from the past.

Costello gets sentimental on "My Three Sons" singing about his recently born twins and now adult son. The album closes with two alt-country songs and a killer b-side.

"Go Away" is a classic throwaway song. Steve Nieve plays a riff straight out of a ? And The Mysterians song while Costello rants about spy movies, epics and screwball comedies amid a joyful chorus featuring Lewis' great voice. It's a fitting ending for an album truly recorded just for the fun of it.

Classics: "American Gangster Time," "Harry Worth," "Flutter & Wow," "Stella Hurt"

Songs I'd like to hear live: "No Hiding Place," Turpentine," "Harry Worth," "Stella Hurt," "Mr. Feathers," "Pardon Me Madam, My Name Is Eve".

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