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Old 05-25-2009, 05:29 PM   #87 (permalink)
why bother?
Bulldog's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 4,826

Early start tomorrow, so I may as well lull myself to sleep by finishing off this thread...

2008, Universal Records, Sound City Studios (Van Nuys, CA)

1. No Hiding Place
2. American Gangster Time
3. Turpentine
4. Harry Worth
5. Drum and Bone
6. Flutter and Wow
7. Stella Hurt
8. Mr. Feathers
9. My Three Sons
10. Song with Rose [Costello/Cash]
11. Pardon Me Madam, My Name Is Eve [Costello/Lynn]
12. Go Away

Following his four fairly experimental albums this side of the second millennium, when Elvis Costello and the Imposters took to the studio again in February 2008, they decided to opt for a much more basic approach to recording. Having at first become a bit sick of recording (and sworn never to do an album again), it took a duet with Jenny Lewis (formerly of Rilo Kiley fame) on her solo album Acid Tongue to reinvigorate his passion for the recording process. Taking a bunch of new songs and a couple of co-writes with fellow singer-songwriters Loretta Lynn and Rosanne Cash (eldest daughter of someone called Johnny Cash, dunno if you've heard of him before) into the studio with his faithful backing band, a very stripped-down and back-to-basics sound was fashioned. It practically came out of nowhere too - the very existence of this album wasn't made public until way after the sessions and just under a month before it's official release.

The album was dedicated to (and, of course, named after) Momofuku Ando - the inventor of the cup noodle who'd died the previous year at the ripe old age of 97. Depending on how far you want to look into it, I guess you could say the whole 'just-add-water' ethic of cup noodles could be applied to this album, given that it's kind of a reflection of the simplicity of the overall sound. As I said earlier, there's no fancy stuff like New Orleans jazz, sampled drum loops or blue-eyed soul here - just a bunch of musicians who'd been round the block many many times beating out a toe-tapping, red raw rock 'n' roll sound with a few elements of new wave thrown in. It's Elvis Costello and the Imposters (and the occasional guest such as Los Lobos' David Hidalgo, Pete Thomas' daughter Tennessee and the aforementioned Jenny Lewis) simply making the music they love to play. The only decent-quality video I could find should give you as good an idea as any of what the whole album sounds like. It's the sound of a very satisfied (rather than self-satisfied) musicians just banging out a few tunes in the studio with virtually no adornments - as far as I know, every song was recorded live. It certainly sounds like it with a lot of the songs' tendencies to go off on improvisational instrumental tangents.

To tell you the truth though, I was a little disappointed when this album came out. It's probably something to do with the fact that I loved When I Was Cruel, the Delivery Man and the River In Reverse and was looking forward to another album of that kind of ambitious nature, but I do remember feeling let down when I got this home from the CD shop a day or so after its release. There aren't any bad songs on there by any stretch of the imagination. All of them are very well-played with some very fine lyrics (as per norm), but every song is just a little too undercooked for me to lump any of them in with Costello's best. There are some very good songs, such as the rollicking American Gangster Time, the catchy Flutter and Wow and the pensive My Three Sons, but nothing I'd call truly brilliant (unlike, say, Six-Fingered Man, Either Side Of the Same Town or Episode Of Blonde for example). They all seem a little too undercooked for me.

It's true that it's just Elvis Costello and the Imposters doing what they want in the studio, and that's admirable enough, but if this album was given a bit more thought and time during the recording process, I'd probably be rating it a lot higher. All in all, it's a decent album, but nothing truly remarkable (unlike the two that preceded it).


And like that, I'm finished! Well, at least until I've formed a coherent opinion about the new one anyway. I hope you've found my reviews vaguely readable. If any of them have swayed into getting an album or two then bonus cool points to you.

Now, I've just gotta twiddle my thumbs 'til I can think of another idea for a thread I can drag on for a few months. Ho hum...
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