All covers have a corner bend. Discs inside are undamaged.
Costellos Intricate Poetry + The Roots Textured Soundscapes! A Moody, Brooding Affair, Cathartic Rhythms & Dissonant Lullabies!
What is Wise Up Ghost? It's the new album from Elvis Costello and The Roots. It's also a striking act of musical cooperation, a flower that budded doubly, and an aural report on both historical memory and the memory of history. Wise Up Ghost started as an offhanded remark. Costello was the musical guest on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, where The Roots serve as the house band, and Questlove, the Roots iconic drummer, suggested the project to Costello. I subliminally put out the idea of a larger collaboration, Questlove says. Or maybe passive-aggressivelyI was too afraid to actually suggest that we should make a record together. The project was originally envisioned as an EP, but the field of vision expanded. I had worked with them enough on Fallon to know it was a good match, Costello says. This is a band that does what Ive done from the start: they draw off everything, all types of music.
Costello and the Roots have something else in common: both are artists who have always prized substance over style. So what's this record about? For starters, its about a world in turmoil. On the Roots Rising Down, a half-decade ago, the band wondered how the promise of Barack Obamas election would curdle when the outsized expectations attached to his administration werent met. That hangover hangs over this record: lyrically, its darker than it is light, and it paints a picture of an America that, while not exactly post-racial, has seen its blacks and whites turn to shades of grayand many more than fifty. The opening track, Walk Us Uptown, begins with talk of a killing ground and sorrow, and it gets worse from there: Keep a red flag flying / Keep a blue flag as well / And a white flag in case it all goes to hell.
It does, repeatedly. The apocalyptic imagery of Walk Us Uptown recurs on Sugar Wont Work, which laments the limits of love: Is that a horn thats blowing / Or a bell thats tolling? / Walls are falling / Ships pulled out from their mooring. Wake Me Up borrows from two earlier Costello songs about dire straits, the Katrina lament The River In Reverse and the madhouse anthem Bedlam. And the slinky (She Might Be A) Grenade is a love song that quickly makes for the lower level, though its John Miltons lower level rather than James Browns: She's tearing out the seams / She's going to extremes / Nobody told her it was a sin / So she's pulling out the pin. The lyrics go by at a menacingly glacial pace, like Smokey Robinson slowed down so you can feel the danger fully.
Throughout Wise Up Ghost, theres a dense sound thats not exactly hip-hop, not exactly rock-and-roll, and not exactly anything else either. That sense of musical adventure was part of the plan. One of the first songs we played with the Roots was High Fidelity. That comes from Get Happy!!, where we took our cues from Stax, Costello says. We didnt end up sounding like Stax, of course. This is the same thing. Bringing different kinds of music into the same space has never been alien to me. Thats how rock-and-roll came about, so people can use whatever word they want to describe this collision-cum-explosion.
Walk Us Uptown, Refuse to Be Saved, Wake Me Up: Many of the song titles here are commands, and they help to create a climate of urgency that culminates in the title track. It begins with a piano figure and swirling strings before Questloves drums surface. The shimmering refrain of Shes pulling out the pin is itself a ghost, calling back not only to (She Might Be A) Grenade but to its forebear, a lesser-known Costello track from The Delivery Man. In legend, of course, ghosts have a vexed relationship with wisdom. Often, they are spirits left behind because they failed to demonstrate the appropriate acumen in life. Are we now, as a species, risking this kind of nightmare? Can we learn enough to prevent a purgatorial future? Costellos lyrics have always been sharp, but here theres a blunt warning as well about the way that slight errors can turn into night terrors.
Fusing Costellos intricate poetry and the Roots textured soundscapes could have been daunting. But the album, co-produced by Steven Mandel, negotiates its terrain expertly, bringing in the Brent Fischer Orchestra for five tracks and balancing entirely new compositions with adaptations of older material. Most of the lyrical choices came from Elvis, Mandel says. In the case of Stick Out Your Tongue, which reimagines Pills and Soap, that one came from our end. Pills and Soap has always been one of my favorite songs and Questsits this little thing crying Do something with me.
The album closes with If I Could Believe. Over minimal backing, Costello reflects on faith and folly: If I could believe two and two is five / Two wrongs make a right / Well then, man alive / Lost in my insolence and sneers / That might sound like prayers / If I could believe. It sounds like a resolution, a way to set the world rightthough it should be noted that this optimism depends upon an egregious overthrow of basic logic, not to mention many of the songs that came before it. Refuse to Be Saved, one of those songs, is a loose-limbed workout that reframes the lyrics of Invasion Hit Parade, from the 1991 album Mighty Like a Rose. That song was originally written around the time of the invasion of Panama and the fall of the Berlin Wall, Costello says. When I went back to it, the lyrics seemed oddly appropriate to the present. Its also a clear demonstration of the method that makes Wise Up Ghost work so well: Costello remains inimitably himself while also reorienting himself toward to the band. His aim is Root.
- Ben Greenman, "Ghost" Protocol
Most of the sessions took place in secret at Feliz Habitat Studios in the dead of night, while others were in plain sight at Costellos Hookery Crookery Studios. Elvis described the record as the shortest distance between here and there and containing both rhythm and what is read. ?uestlove says, It's a moody, brooding affair, cathartic rhythms and dissonant lullabies. I went stark and dark on the music, Elvis went HAM on some ole Ezra Pound shit.
• 180 Gram Vinyl
• Double LP
• Gatefold Jacket
• Includes Limited Time MP3 Download of Album
Elvis Costello, guitar, vocals
Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, drums
Black Thought, MC
Kamal Gray, electronic keyboards
F. Knuckles, percussion
Captain Kirk Douglas, electronic guitar
Damon Bryson, sousaphone
James Poyser, electronic keyboard
La Marisoul, guest artist, vocals
Brent Fischer Orchestra
LP1 - Side A:
1. Walk Us Uptown
2. Sugar Dont Work
3. Refuse To Be Saved
LP1 - Side B:
1. Wake Me Up
3. Stick Out Your Tongue
LP2 - Side C:
1. Come The Meantimes
2. (She Might Be A) Grenade
3. Cinco Minutos Con Vos
LP2 - Side D:
1. Viceroys Row
2. Wise Up Ghost
3. If I Could Believe