12 Songs, 56 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

As a solo artist, bandleader, and collaborator, Elvis Costello has built a wildly eclectic discography, partnering with everyone from Burt Bacharach to Allen Toussaint to gleefully destroy genre borders. But his collaboration with The Roots marks the onetime new wave enfant terrible’s first entry into the hip-hop arena. No, Costello hasn’t turned to rapping, but he meets The Roots more than halfway here; the bulk of the songs not only rely on hip-hop and funk beats for their lifeblood but take a page from the modern urban compositional code. The man once dubbed "rock 'n' roll's George Gershwin" eschews harmonic complexity for a songwriting stance that’s more about texture, phrasing, and the all-important rhythmic thrust. Sure, early Costello hits like “Pump It Up” were more about feel than fancy chord changes, but here—from the slinky, slow-rolling “Wake Me Up” to the funky, postmodern Meters-isms of “Sugar Won’t Work”—the songs feel like they were written around the grooves, rather than vice versa. Even when the album closes with the piano-led pop ballad “If I Could Believe,” an unexpected contemporary string section at the end suggests that Costello’s far from finished tweaking people’s expectations.

EDITORS’ NOTES

As a solo artist, bandleader, and collaborator, Elvis Costello has built a wildly eclectic discography, partnering with everyone from Burt Bacharach to Allen Toussaint to gleefully destroy genre borders. But his collaboration with The Roots marks the onetime new wave enfant terrible’s first entry into the hip-hop arena. No, Costello hasn’t turned to rapping, but he meets The Roots more than halfway here; the bulk of the songs not only rely on hip-hop and funk beats for their lifeblood but take a page from the modern urban compositional code. The man once dubbed "rock 'n' roll's George Gershwin" eschews harmonic complexity for a songwriting stance that’s more about texture, phrasing, and the all-important rhythmic thrust. Sure, early Costello hits like “Pump It Up” were more about feel than fancy chord changes, but here—from the slinky, slow-rolling “Wake Me Up” to the funky, postmodern Meters-isms of “Sugar Won’t Work”—the songs feel like they were written around the grooves, rather than vice versa. Even when the album closes with the piano-led pop ballad “If I Could Believe,” an unexpected contemporary string section at the end suggests that Costello’s far from finished tweaking people’s expectations.

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