January 30, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 30°F


Review: Costello calls on hip-hop Roots

"Wise Up Ghost"

Elvis Costello and The Roots

Hip-hop band The Roots has teamed up with Elvis Costello to create “Wise Up Ghost,” an album that will please both fans of Costello’s pub-rock sounds and The Roots’ crisp, soulful instrumentals.

Unlike in The Roots’ previous collaboration with John Legend, rapper Black Thought, one of The Roots’ founding members, is absent from this album. This is disappointing because his poetic flow could have breathed life into a track like the tame “Wake Me Up.” Even without Black Thought, The Roots are still able to prove they are one of the best bands performing today, no matter what genre they tackle.

Costello is at the top of his game. The emotional “Tripwire” shows his gritty Sinatra-esque voice is as strong as it has ever been. Combined with The Roots’ gentle glockenspiel and drums, Costello provides one of the best songs in both bands’ catalogs.

On lead singles “Walk Us Uptown” and “Refuse to Be Saved,” a psychedelic influence pierces through with some clashing organ sounds and intense drumming to create an atmosphere that sets the listener up for the rest of the album.

Occasionally, Costello and The Roots indulge themselves a little too much. The haunting “Wise Up Ghost” feels overlong and repetitive at 6 1/2 minutes, considering no new lyrics or instruments are added after the four-minute mark. The sound of the volume increasing on a Mac computer at the beginning of “Walk Us Uptown” is pointlessly added, while the jarring bells on the otherwise great “Come the Meantimes” are annoying.

Despite these flaws, “Wise up Ghost” is still an enjoyable listen. The bottom of the album cover says “Number One,” suggesting more albums are to come. If there are, then followers of both acts are in for a soulful treat.

Overall rating: Three out of four stars