Review: Elvis Costello and The Roots, ‘Wise Up Ghost’
Elvis Costello and The Roots released their collaborative album “Wise Up Ghost” on Sept. 17. Since Costello is considered one of the greatest artists of all time, and The Roots are regarded as the definitive band of hip hop, their broad range of talents fuse effortlessly. The album delivers everything you would expect from the all-star alliance: an abundance of metaphors, slick rhythms and an array of haunting yet jazzy melodies that brim with energy and Costello’s signature thought-provoking lyrics.
The Roots have worked with a lot of big names, from Jay-Z to John Legend, and Elvis has recorded with the godfather himself, Paul McCartney, so it’s no surprise that “Wise Up Ghost” meets all the criteria of a classic album. Although lead member Black Thought does not make an appearance, the essence of The Roots’ eclectic style is splattered through out, and Costello’s intelligent writing powers the record from start to finish.
The album begins with untamed electric synth and sounds of static, as if its quirks are still being refined. “Walk Us Uptown” is the first track of an onslaught that allows for no fillers or weak spots. Singing over an infectious drum pattern by Questlove, Costello questions salvation and emphasizes political undertones with the lines “Will you wash away our sins/In the cross-fire and cross-currents/As you uncross your fingers/And take out some insurance?” Many of the lyrics are left for the listener to decipher and offer depth along with a captivating melody.
“Wake Me Up” has a little bit of it all: powerful words, smooth grooves and a bass line that hooks its victim from the opening note. With subtle guitar, horns and a timeless hip hop drum rhythm, Costello speaks of tragedy and escape as he sings, “Where the wretched plunge/We’ve buried all the innocents/We must bury revenge.” The track alludes to current events, as it references Palestine and Jerusalem and mentions the battle of religion and state when Costello sings, “In the name of the Father and the Son/In the name of gasoline and a gun/Wake me up … There must be something better than this.”
“Wise Up Ghost” surely deserves to be considered one of the top albums released this year. Costello and The Roots have put together an extraordinary arrangement of music and are sure to win many awards. With the success of their first effort, one can assume that more work between these legends is soon to come.