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Elvis Costello & The Roots — Wise Up Ghost (2013)

 Elvis Costello & The Roots — Wise Up Ghost (2013)

Elvis Costello & The Roots — Wise Up Ghost
“The shortest distance between here and there” — Elvis Costello
The most evocative, innovative, and gifted songwriter since Bob Dylan, with songs that offer highly personal takes on love and politics.
Philadelphia-based ensemble who elevated hip-hop with their use of live instrumentation.
Birth name: Declan Patrick MacManus
Also known as: D.P. Costello, The Imposter, Little Hands of Concrete, Napoleon Dynamite, Howard Coward
Born: 25 August 1954, Paddington, London, England
Notable instruments: Fender Jazzmaster, Fender Telecaster
Location: London ~ Twickenham ~ Birkenhead ~ London, England
Roots formed: 1987 in Philadelphia, PA
Album release: September 17, 2013
Record Label: Blue Note Records (Universal)
Duration:     56:02
Tracks:
01. Walk Us Uptown     3:23
02. Sugar Won’t Work     3:31
03. Refuse to Be Saved     4:26
04. Wake Me Up     5:54
05. Tripwire     4:28
06. Stick Out Your Tongue     5:28
07. Come the Meantimes     3:53
08. (She Might Be a) Grenade     4:36
09. Cinco minutos con vos (with La Marisoul)     5:01
10. Viceroy’s Row     5:02
11. Wise Up Ghost     6:27
12. If I Could Believe     3:53
Δ   Long-rumored and shrouded in mystery, this collaborative album between Elvis Costello and The Roots promises to be one of the most unexpected and surprising releases of 2013.
Δ   The album, titled Wise Up Ghost, will be out September 17 via Blue Note Records.
“It’s a moonlighting album,” Questlove says of the Roots’ new LP with Costello. The adventurous hip-hop crew and the acerbic singer-songwriter bonded during a series of appearances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, where the Roots are the house band. They considered doing an album of reimagined Costello classics; instead, they cut a spacious, genre-bending funk set with a political charge. “There’s a lot of dub stuff in there,” says Costello. “It creates a challenge to make something which can hold your attention for the length of time it takes to tell a story, even though it doesn’t progress in a conventional way.”
Website: http://www.elviscostello.com/micro/wise-up-ghost/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/elviscostello
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lfhafgiONU
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ElvisCostello
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Δ   As previously reported, Quest has described the record as “a moody, brooding affair” full of “cathartic rhythms and dissonant lullabies” adding “I went stark and dark on the music, Elvis went HAM on some ole Ezra Pound shit.” In a statement, Costello nebulously described the album as “the shortest distance between here and there,” saying it contains “both rhythm and what is ready.”
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REVIEW
by Dan Lucas ▾ July 16th, 10:57, 2013
Δ   This writer's parents, friends and various acquaintances have all told him on various occasions that he looks like a lot of different famous people, none of whom look alike and none of whom really look like him. Justin Timberlake, Jeff Tweedy, David Lynch, Jacques Villeneuve, Pete Doherty, Jarvis Cocker, Rivers Cuomo, New Zealand slow left arm bowler Daniel Vettori, a meerkat, and two fifths of Radiohead have all been mentioned by folks of varying sobriety. The one that comes up most often though is “Hey Dan, you ever been told you look a bit like Elvis Costello?”
Δ   Yeah, I have, and moreover I’ve always felt some kind of affinity with the guy. Perhaps he’s not as revered as the likes of Dylan, Morrissey, or the bloke out of Bright Eyes, but the one from DiS who looks a bit like him will always belong to that small part of British society that considers Costello’s acerbic songwriting to be the zenith of the craft. So heading down to a neat Soho hotel for a couple of beers and a playback of Wise Up Ghost – an intriguing sounding collaboration between Elvis and The Roots – and a brief Q&A with our hero, DiS was so excited he even managed to tear himself away from The Ashes, where Australia were nine down on the brink of an embarrassingly massive first innings deficit.
Δ   When the guy, looking every bit the elegant rock star clad in navy pinstripe suit, horn-rimmed glasses and Panama hat, shook DiS' hand and we spoke briefly at the end of the day, we might have gone into gushing fanboy mode. Fortunately, before that, I managed to write down a few initial track-by-track thoughts on the album. As Larry David would put it, it’s prett-ay, prett-ay good.
01. ‘Walk Us Uptown’
Δ   The Roots’ scuzzy, lo-fi production is all over this. The music is noisy and discordant, whilst the keyboards sound a lot like The Specials. Elvis sounds angry and vitriolic, which is great. Huh, this took up a lot more space in my notebook.
02. ‘Singer Won’t Work’
Δ   This one’s a lot smoother. The whole song is built around a very funky bass line, with the odd keyboard thrown in purely for colour. On the vocals, Elvis appears to be channeling Motown. Again, I thought my notes would fill more space than this. Could be a short blog.
03. ‘Refuse to be Saved’
Δ   I know I used the word “funky” in the previous blurb, but I’m short on synonyms. Δ   This might be the funkiest Elvis has ever been, with chopped up drums, spiky industrial guitars and sporadic ascending and descending keyboard fills making this one a little bit disco. I’m liking the way the instruments get progressively busier, until it sounds like Chic-goes-new wave (as far as I remember).
Δ   You know what? This is the most ambitious he’s been in years. Certainly it sounds like he’s having a shitload of fun. Although weirdly these first few songs have all been joined up by this strange, Disney string interlude thing.
04. ‘Wake Me Up’
Δ   Ahh this one’s slowed down a bit. A low, bluesy number with Elvis adopting his deep and soulful voice for the first time on the album, this one has some very cool jagged guitars intersecting neatly with the horns. In fact with these gloriously dirty production values it has a Tom Waits feel to it.
05. ‘Tripwire’
Δ   The key words for this album I reckon are “lo-fi”, “scuzzy” and “dirty”. Somehow even the mellow fairy chimes that sparkle on this track have that kind of feel to them. They kind of remind me of one of those mobile things you’d hang above a kid’s cot at night, and are neatly backed up by a choir on the chorus. Sad sounding vocal is a little bit safe though, which is disappointing.
06. ‘Stick Out Your Tongue’
Δ   Ahh this is ‘Pills and Soap’! The combination of subdued, sawing guitars playing funky licks and keyboards that sound a bit like Brian Eno circa My Life in the Bush of Ghosts probably shouldn’t work, but it’s pretty neat actually. Elvis’s voice has been lightly computerised too, and the multitracking is great.
07. ‘Come the Meantimes’
Δ   A title that makes as little sense as my scrawled note: “Speaker-shredding guitar feedback then cuts into what sounds like a hip-hop take on a New Orleans funeral march.”
08. ‘She Might Be a Grenade’
Δ   Elvis is apparently very fond of chanting the odd line repeatedly; by my count this is the third song on the album where he does this. It’s probably the most minimal track on the album, the keys and acoustic guitar struggle against choppy, cracking* drums. Δ   I’d guess this one is about 90% ?uestlove.
Δ   * Take either meaning of “cracking”, both work
09. ‘Cinco Minutos Con Vos’
Δ   Apparently this one is revisiting ‘Shipbuilding’, only from an Argentinean perspective. Despite this, it's perhaps the most “British” sounding thing on here: it could have been written in Bristol circa 1994. What with the whole trip-hop thing here, the Spanish vocals from La Marisoul do seem a little out of place, although they obviously fit the theme of the song.
10. ‘Viceroy’s Row’
Δ   Ooh this is nice, a kind of smooth, coked up, lounge jazz thing. In a way it’s oddly reminiscent of Wilco’s masterpiece ‘Jesus Etc.’ with the production preventing Elvis’s vocal from dominating. I like the neat little ghostly, fluctuating sirens in the background of this one.
11. ‘Wise Up Ghost’
Δ   There are some very theatrical, operatic strings that open this one, which I guess is kind of a nod back to those Disney string interludes I mentioned earlier (they’ve stopped now). Actually these string arrangements are taking on a very John Paul Jones quality now, added to pounding polyrhythms and bluesy guitars it almost sounds like Zeppelin. I like the way it builds a sense of dread but keeps the vocals grounded.
12. ‘If I Could Believe’
Δ   Ah the hopeful yet sorrowful climax (shut up). I guess this is a quintessential Costello ballad: the emotional vocal, the sad cynicism in the lyrics. Oddly it’s just a piano track, with no obvious input from ?uestlove (dear god I hate typing that out). Still, from a thematic perspective it’s a great closer... and hey, that Disney motif thing is back!
Δ   All in all it’s a lot of fun. The hip hop influence on the veteran rock star isn’t anything like the disaster you might fear, and in fact helps him sound fresher than he has in years. It’s a very politicised, angry record too, and the ramshackle production gives it a Tom Waits kind of sound on more than one track. It’s certainly one to look out for later this year anyway.
Right now back to the crick... aw fuck.
Fortaken: http://drownedinsound.com/
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Notes:
Δ   Costello became engaged to piano-vocalist Diana Krall in May 2003, and married her at the home of Elton John on 6 December that year. Krall gave birth to twin sons, Dexter Henry Lorcan and Frank Harlan James, on 6 December 2006 in New York City.
Δ   Costello has won multiple awards in his career, including a Grammy Award, and has twice been nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Male. In 2003, Elvis Costello and the Attractions were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Costello number 80 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
DISCOGRAPHY:
Δ   Studio albums by Elvis Costello (included albums released with the Attractions and the Imposters):
My Aim Is True (1977)
This Year's Model (1978)
Armed Forces (1979)
Get Happy!! (1980)
Trust (1981)
Almost Blue (1981)
Imperial Bedroom (1982)
Punch the Clock (1983)
Goodbye Cruel World (1984)
King of America (1986)
Blood & Chocolate (1986)
Spike (1989)
Mighty Like a Rose (1991)
The Juliet Letters (1993)
Brutal Youth (1994)
Kojak Variety (1995)
All This Useless Beauty (1996)
When I Was Cruel (2002)
North (2003)
The Delivery Man (2004)
Momofuku (2008)
Secret, Profane & Sugarcane (2009)
National Ransom (2010)
Wise Up Ghost (2013)
Δ   Costello has also released studio albums in collaboration with Richard Harvey, John Harle, Burt Bacharach, Anne Sofie Von Otter, Bill Frisell, Marian McPartland, Allen Toussaint, and The Roots as well as five live albums: Live at the El Mocambo, Deep Dead Blue, Costello & Nieve, My Flame Burns Blue, and Live at Hollywood High. There have also been numerous compilations, box sets, and reissues by labels such as Rykodisc, Demon, Rhino, and Universal Music Enterprises.
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Elvis Costello & The Roots — Wise Up Ghost (2013)

 

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