A&E

Album review: Elvis Costello and The Roots’ ‘Wise Up Ghost’

Annie Zaleski

Three stars

Elvis Costello and the Roots Wise Up Ghost

In a recent interview, Elvis Costello stressed that his collaboration album with The Roots, “is not my hip-hop record,” and indeed, Wise Up Ghost plays like anything but a straightforward hip-hop record (Roots rapper Black Thought isn’t even present). The album mashes together strolling funk, ’70s action-movie-theme drama, fiery soul-rock, gravelly R&B and, yes, smart hip-hop.

What’s most interesting about these songs is how the chameleonic Costello assimilates (and even disappears into) each style. “Wake Me Up,” resembles the spoken-word of Soul Coughing. The downtempo neo-soul seduction of “Cinco Minutos Con Vos” is a pretty credible David Bowie approximation. And standout “Sugar Won’t Work” is a syrupy, retro-soul croon with flickering organ bleats and laid-back rhythms. It all adds up to a collection of ideas and grooves rather than a defined collection of songs, though, and that leaves Wise Up Ghost feeling meandering and unfocused—a shame considering The Roots are one of the tightest backing bands on the planet.

Share
  • “Do you guys ever wonder if heaven is like this—just one long music festival?"

  • "I can’t believe Foster the People didn’t play ‘Pumped-Up Kicks.'"

  • A few tips: Bring a water bottle and keep it filled, wear earplugs and be ready to deviate from your itinerary.

  • Get More Music Stories
Top of Story