Wise Up Ghost and Other Songs - Elvis Costello & the Roots

Generally favorable reviews - based on 32 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 32
  2. Negative: 0 out of 32
  1. Sep 16, 2013
    It's not exactly alienating but Wise Up Ghost does require work from its audience, and the more you know--and the more you listen--the better it seems.
  2. Sep 16, 2013
    Well, they already have the careers. With Wise Up Ghost, though, they now also have a great album.
  3. Sep 19, 2013
    Some of the songs are undercooked, or at least they begin to feel that way as the grooves stretch out past five minutes.
  4. Oct 11, 2013
    Scouse grump and Philadelphia radicals were made for each other. [Nov 2013, p.104]
  5. Sep 12, 2013
    Half of this curious but at times compelling collaboration set lyrics from old songs to new tracks--though not always to their benefit. [Oct 2013, p.62]
  6. Sep 19, 2013
    Thanks to The Roots, Costello has new access--and Wise Up Ghost should bring new listeners to mess with. [Oct 2013, p.94]
  7. Sep 17, 2013
    It's the sound of a savant songsmith trying to impress the world's best backing band.
  8. 70
    Its only disappointment is the absence of Roots rapper Black Thought to joust with him.
  9. Sep 17, 2013
    At this point in his career, an album-length experiment like Wise Up Ghost seems to satisfy Costello artistically, thanks to his chameleon tendencies, but there isn’t much to add to the best of either catalog.
  10. Sep 12, 2013
    In all, Wise Up Ghost achieves something much greater than the sum of its parts. [Aug-Sep 2013, P.90]
  11. Sep 16, 2013
    Not only is it one of Costello’s best collaborative efforts, it’s also one of his best albums full stop. Recommended for Costello newcomers and long-time believers alike.
  12. Sep 13, 2013
    the overall sense is that they [The Roots] have reignited him [Costello], the combination of one of England’s great lyricists and production from arguably America’s most forward-thinking band resulting in a crisp, funky, even dangerous sounding album as political and as relevant as anything this year.
  13. Sep 13, 2013
    You’ve got to give it to perennial over-achievers: sometimes they even know how to make extra-credit assignments sound like A+ work.
  14. Sep 12, 2013
    The album's sound is frugal and full of space, but doesn't feel airy so much as eerie. There's a queasy, drugged feeling about the music on Wake Up Ghost that fits both the fragmentary lyrics and at least one of their themes.
  15. 80
    It may not be quite the meeting of musical minds that fans and critics had anticipated, but that just makes it better.
  16. Sep 17, 2013
    That this collaboration would end up working so well should really be of little surprise to longtime fans of Costello. His ‘70s and ’80s work often bore the influence of the same R&B, soul and funk records that the Roots clearly adore.
  17. Sep 19, 2013
    There are some missteps--the ballad Tripwire feels out of place in the general uptempo pace, and in (She Might Be A) Grenade, Costello lazily compares a girl to an atomic bomb (didn’t Green Day already do this?)--but when the album works, the band and the singer/songwriter sound more invigorated than they have in years.
  18. Sep 17, 2013
    The result is an album that pops with attitude, relaxed but never lazy, a groove-driven album structured around Quest's minimalist drum attack, Kirk's old-school rhythm n' blues licks and wahs, some Curtis Mayfield-style string arrangements, and a lead singer whose voice sounds oddly youthful, as though channeled from his Imposters days.
  19. Sep 17, 2013
    While a few of the experiments feel a little arid, the best songs balance menace and buoyancy, melody and groove.
  20. Sep 19, 2013
    This could have been Costello's urban album, or his funk album, or his black album--but instead, it's simply his new album. [No. 102, p.54]
  21. Nov 21, 2013
    Wise Up Ghost, more compelling in theory than practice.
  22. Sep 18, 2013
    If you've ever fallen in love with a Costello record, be prepared for a new obsession.
  23. Sep 25, 2013
    Of the two acts, Costello’s pinch of dry spice makes this set more his vehicle to champion, but both show a mutual, practical affinity.
  24. 75
    This isn’t mere dilettantism, and while it’s likely to net both acts new fans from the other side of the great genre divide, it holds up more than capably on its own terms.
  25. Sep 16, 2013
    These tracks are densely self-referential, borrowing lyrics and themes from Costello's past.
  26. There’s something artificial and experimental in the project’s very DNA, but that need not be a bad thing, and it isn’t.
  27. 90
    Wise Up Ghost is a fearless, invigorating gut-punch of a record, one that never settles and surprises from start to finish.
  28. Sep 13, 2013
    Only the schmaltzy If I Could Believe left me unmoved. Otherwise, this is a very cool, politically charged collaboration which finds the Roots and Costello at their thrilling best.
  29. Oct 30, 2013
    A high watermark in the canons of all involved.
  30. Sep 16, 2013
    Tempos drag in the Latin-flavored "Cinco Minutos Con Vos" and the static "Viceroy's Row," and the title track is a mood piece that never climbs out of neutral. But even these misfires feel like experiments that fell short, while the rest of "Wise Up Ghost" revels in its uneasiness.
  31. 83
    It’s rare that a record comes along that so boldly states its own greatness, and it’s rarer still that such an album actually lives up to that promise. Wise Up Ghost does.
  32. Sep 17, 2013
    Take it or leave it, Wise Up Ghost is great.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 15 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 5
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 5
  3. Negative: 0 out of 5
  1. Sep 19, 2013
    I'm conservative with giving score, but this one is well worth the full marks. It is sensational. Costello has a timeless sound and everything The Roots do sounds fresh and vital. This is perfection from first track to the last. Full Review »
  2. Sep 17, 2013
    I can't get this album out of rotation. Keep coming back for more, and getting it. I'm more than old enough to have admired Elvis during his entire career, and this is an outstanding addition to the discography. If there is a better collaboration this year, bring it on! Full Review »
  3. Nov 24, 2013
    Totally digging what Elvis & The Roots have put together here! You'll enjoy it if you like bluesy, gritty, clever music, this album is for you. They play well together, very much worth the score! Full Review »