Have you checked out Wise Up Ghost yet? It's the new album Elvis Costello made with the Roots and its really great. I spent the weekend listening to it, and growing in my appreciation for it, and the title track is the one that's got me most securely stuck in its clutches.
It's six minutes and twenty-seven seconds long, and it starts with a descending five-note cello riff, the kind that's like "uh oh, bad news" when you hear it in movie, over whisper-volume background noise of what sounds like people watching a boxing match, and you know it's something special right away. Piano starts and higher-register violin mimics the cello. And then Costello's whiskey-and-honey voice: "Last lions roar before they're tamed/I stood out in the glorious rain/Knowing full well/I can't go home again..." And then, a full minute in, the hot sting of a guitar line yanks us into modernity. Or at least, the '70s. Those same five notes (which, come to think of it, are very much like "Beethoven's Fifth"—no wonder they sound like bad news!) It's about as heroically hard-rock as either Elvis Costello or The Roots have ever sounded on record. This is a song about getting old, and fighting it.
But the best part, to me, is (not surprisingly) Questlove's drumming. Driving the song forward without pounding too hard, he spents most of his energy on the high-hats, tippy-tap-tip-tap-tip-tip, in a way that sounds like rain. Is there even a pattern there? It's hard to tell. Chaos? Or just complicated? Either way, it's awesome and I love it. And it's the sound I was hearing this morning as my train came out its out of its tunnel and into the sunlight as we crossed the East River on the Manhattan Bridge. And it was just right.
It's all tension this song, not much release. But those cymbals, and busy snares beneath them, keep things rolling forward as Costello talk-sings his cryptic, cynical, but still somehow triumphant poetry to its conclusion. "Last sigh of passion/Slipped into the room like an assassin/Glad tidings we bring/For you and your king/Wise Up Ghost..."
Getting old's not so bad.