Boston Globe, September 17, 2013

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Wise Up Ghost and Other Songs

Elvis Costello and the Roots

Sarah Rodman

There are many things to thank Late Night With Jimmy Fallon for, and this captivating collaboration from veteran singer-songwriter Elvis Costello and versatile "Fallon’’ house band the Roots is another for the list. Following several appearances on the show, Costello and the hip-hop soul crew hit the studio and the chemistry is undeniable.

The musical sensibility — darkly funky, spectral harmony vocals, soulful swagger, jagged guitar, eruptive horn blares, fluid bass — is more Roots; the lyrical sensibility — verbose, sharply observed, personal, and political — is more Costello. But there is plenty of commonality — especially in the darkness — and the manner in which the artists bend toward each other in the songwriting and production testifies to the mutual appreciation.

While a few of the experiments feel a little arid, the best songs balance menace and buoyancy, melody and groove. Among those are the insistent "Wake Me Up," "Refuse to Be Saved," with its waterfall of evocative images, and the slow burning "(She Might Be a) Grenade." "Stick Out Your Tongue," a reworking of the Costello classic "Pills and Soap," is a highlight, retaining the original’s vocal acidity but softening it with a fidgety rhythmic bed, playful backing vocals, and bright horn blasts.

ESSENTIAL: "Stick Out Your Tongue"

Elvis Costello plays the Wilbur Theatre Nov. 17.


Boston Globe, September 17, 2013

Sarah Rodman reviews Wise Up Ghost.


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