This Year’s Model
On Wise Up Ghost, two musical icons team up and birth a musical prodigy that’s a fine infusion of both parents’ DNA. Equal parts British troubadour and Philadelphian jam band, Wise Up Ghost is a perfect culmination of two long careers intersecting and showing each other what they learned along the way. Elvis Costello brings his usually insightful lyricism and versatile vocals to the table, while The Roots use this as an excuse to show their full range of musical talents, shuffling through genres like a blackjack dealer.
The first eight seconds of “Walk Us Uptown” starts off with weird beeps and bloops, sounding like an aged R2D2 on the verge of death, but this false sense of direction eventually leads to a funky little number which displays the full spectrum of talent that is culled together here. The drums are amazing, the bass line is fantastic, and the vocals are unquestionably Mr. Costello’s.
“Sugar Won’t Work” slows down the tempo as Costello laments, “and this will predict the times these signs will bring / Me and my stupid heart / We were never apart / But now sugar won’t work.” But The Roots pick the bear back up on “Refuse to Be Saved,” while Costello’s performance evokes images of a young Bob Dylan in the ’60s crooning about politics and persecution.
“Just because you don’t speak the language / Doesn’t mean that you can’t understand,” is just one of the many lyrical gems tucked away on “Tripwire.” The Roots play gently, creating an almost lullaby backdrop, while Costello’s voice sounds as smooth as it ever has. Ending out the record is “If I Could Believe,” in which Costello delivers a powerful chorus, confessing “If I could believe / You were from heaven sent / Then just losing you / Would be my punishment.”
Sometimes, when you add two variables together that are exceptional on their own, they can become volatile, but that is not the case on Wise Up Ghost. The Roots and Elvis Costello not only complemented each other wonderfully but they also used their differences to create something truly amazing.