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Elvis Costello and the Impostors, “Momofuku” (Lost Highway) [2 STARS]

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Constitutionally incapable of editing himself or accepting that maybe, just maybe his considerable talents aren’t quite so considerable that they justify excursions into piano jazz and classical music or collaborations with Allen Toussaint and Burt Bacharach, part-time luxury car pitchman Declan MacManus is getting some mileage from the fact that he rush-released this new disc with minimal hype (never mind that there’s been little interest in any of his new releases this millennium) and recorded it even more quickly after a sudden burst of inspiration following a guest stint on Jenny Lewis’ next album. (The California retro-pop/alt-country chanteuse adds harmonies here as payback.)

“Obviously the title is a tribute to Momofuku Ando, the inventor of the Cup Noodle,” Costello writes. “Like so many things in this world of wonders, all we had to do to make this record was add water.” For Elvis, the idea of avoiding overcooking and unnecessary spices is a good one: Touring solo acoustic and opening for Bob Dylan last year, his set outshined the headliner’s with its pared-down simplicity and unencumbered emotion. But the singer and songwriter couldn’t resist the urge to tart things up in the studio, even if he was working quickly.

Fussily adorned with harmonies, keyboards and pedal steel guitar, the new songs that worked onstage last fall—including “My Three Sons,” “Song with Rose” (co-written by Rosanne Cash) and “Pardon Me Madam, My Name Is Eve” (co-written with Loretta Lynn)—fall painfully flat here, and Costello persist in dabbling in genres that just don’t suit him (witness the samba of “Harry Worth,” or better yet, save yourself the pain). Only the organ-driven, Attractions-in-everything-but name garage-rockers (“No Hiding Place,” “Go Away”) offer any hint of the fun that Elvis claims he had.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on May 6, 2008 4:53 PM.

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