Disc Reviews: Elvis Costello and The B-52s

More than 30 years since Elvis Costello burst into our musical consciousness, the British icon still sounds energized.

costello 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
costello 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
ELVIS COSTELLO Momofuku (Helicon) Elvis Costello must have an Ever Ready battery implanted in his left frontal lobe. More than 30 years since he burst into our musical consciousness with My Aim is True, the British icon still sounds energized on his new album Momofuku, named after Momofuku Ando, the inventor of world's first instant noodles. Of course, he's got a lot more arsenal to employ than in the days of the machinegun fire of This Year's Model. But with the kindred spirits of the Imposters, the latest incarnation of his longtime backing band the Attractions, he sounds as much at ease recalling the bristling edgy pop of albums like Trust and Blood & Chocolate as he does performing his more reflective, eclectic material. The 1-2-3 punch of the opening "No Hiding Place," "American Gangster Time" and "Turpentine" present all of Costello's best early qualities - punchy music highlighted by Steve Nieve's spiky organ, heavenly melodies and smart, pun-filled lyrics. Momofuku shies away from the rootsy, country influences of the last excellent Imposters album, The Delivery Man, with only the soulful "Flutter & Wow" and country-tinged "Song With Rose" (written with Roseanne Cash) sounding like they would fit that element. Costello's tendency to explore too many styles muddles things up a little on the cocktail jazz of "Harry Worth" and the English dance-hall sound of "Mr. Feathers." But the album rebounds in its final third, featuring classy standouts "My Three Sons," "Pardon Me, Madam, My Name is Eve" and the triumphantly trashy "Go Away." It's always tempting to call any new Elvis Costello album as accomplished as this a return to form, but then again, he's never really lost it. THE B-52s Funplex (Helicon) Another survivor from the new wave days of the '70s, The B-52s return with Funplex, their first studio album in 16 years. And, like Costello, against all laws of time, space and physics, it sounds like no time has passed at all. It may be formula, but the unmistakeable sound of the straight-ahead beat, the twangy-punky guitar, the cheesy keyboards and the dork-meets-go-go-girl vocals of Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson will bring you right back to the '80s dance floor. The first five songs - from the incendiary opening shot of "Pump" through the title song - could be interchanegeable, but in a good way. You won't want them to end. With "Eyes Wide Open" and "Love in the Year 3000," they get into a Devo-type thing that may have you pushing the skip button, but by "Deviant Ingredient" and "Too Much to Think About," they've returned to B-52 form, and the closing "Keep This Party Going" does exactly that. There won't be any prizes coming their way for deep thinking, but if you loved "Rock Lobster" or "Love Shack," Funplex will have you dancing in the aisles.