‘Wise Up Ghost’ Elvis Costello and the Roots
Enough with Velvet Elvis. This year’s model of Elvis Costello features a collaboration with the Roots that inspires his angriest singing and best album in many years.
Wise Up Ghost covers topical turf as Costello rails about the tense and troubled times. The title cut calls for a revolution, Come the MEANTIMES offers dark ruminations on faith and the flag, and TRIPWIRE considers the combustible combination of fear, hatred and armies.
Writing with Roots drummer Ahmir Questlove Thompson and producer Steven Mandel, Costello dials back his melodic ambitions, and for a change he sings songs that don’t exceed his range. Built more on riffs than hooks, the music has the verve of new wave, the directness of punk and the groove of 1970s R&B, with Questlove’s snare and Costello samples among the hip-hop flavorings.
The hybrid gets good mileage, and Costello’s venomous vocals energize much of the set.
– Steven Wine,