Eclectic—that’s what my guitar teacher always called my musical tastes. I have to say this so my next statement doesn’t sound schizophrenic:
I love The Roots and Elvis Costello. And I really like them about the same.
So when I learned about a potential collaboration between these artists, I was ecstatic. That collaboration became the album, Wise Up Ghost, slated for release September 18.
However, the single—”Walk Us Uptown”—is already out. It even boasts an impressively low-budget music video. Luckily, for the much lauded musicians, the track is good enough that you won’t notice until half way through and will probably just shrug it off.
The track has everything I hoped for when I first heard about this collaboration. It has Costello’s snarling verbiage; it has the moody groove of Questlove’s thumping drums; it has The Roots’ thick, gritty riffs, replete with brass and bass that are definitively in-your-face.
The esoteric lyrics recall the same themes that you can find elsewhere in Costello and The Roots’ respective catalogues. Consider these lyrics:
Some hearts are sinking
And some hearts are a-flutter
Some scoop gold from the dirt in the gutter
Or swallow the earth
Pouring into your mouth
As they bury us upright,
Saying, “Everything’s alright”
And throughout the tune repeats the refrain: “Will you walk us uptown?” But you can experience it for yourself here.
It’s cryptic but not occult. It’s like a less descriptive version of “Out in the Streets” with its antiauthoritarian bent or like “Watching the Detectives” without the narrative. Just thinking about these two totally different tracks reminds how fortunate we all are that it is not the kerfuffle it could have been.
The only problem with it being exactly what I wanted is that it lacks any extra surprises. But it is only part of a 15-track record, and I’m sure that they will throw plenty of curveballs.
The first surprise is the cover. It resembles the iconic City Lights Pocket Poets Series, which first published Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. (Actually, I have a copy of Ginsberg’s Reality Sandwiches in my messenger bag right now.)
While the sonic surprises are yet to be revealed, there are sure to be many. Because, if there are any artists who know how to throw you for a loop, it’s these two.