Rim Shots: Elvis Costello & the Roots and Haim

Two disasters best avoided

September 26, 2013

In the digital present as in the now-distant major-label past, Fall remains the busiest release season of the year. So much music, so little time! Rim Shots are quick single-paragraph reviews of albums you need to know about—sometimes, as is the case here, because they are musts to avoid.

Elvis Costello and the Roots, Wise Up Ghost (Blue Note)

Even for those who consider 59-year-old Declan Patrick MacManus a musical genius capable of enhancing any genre with his melodic and lyrical talents and those who hail the Roots as one of the most versatile and sympathetic bands on the planet—and while I’m among the latter, I certainly don’t second the former—there has to be such a thing as a genre too far. In fact, to find a comparison bad enough to rank beside this funked-up stew of awkward rap-singing over lazy and generic jams, you’d have to reach for something as awful as Iggy Pop’s French cabaret turn PrĂ©liminaires or Bob Dylan’s Christmas in the Heart (though good taste would dictate that you didn’t). And if there have been more annoying sounds on record than the typewriter bell ringing at the end of each line on “Come the Meantimes” or Costello’s croak interrupting the sweet crooning of La Marisoul on the duet “Cinco Minutos Con Vos,” I’m hard-pressed at the moment to name them.

Rating on the four-star scale: .5 stars.

Haim, Days Are Gone (Polydor)

Has indie-rock seriously gotten so twee and “poptimistic” that it can hail as a buzz band a California trio aiming at a modern update of Fleetwood Mac but barely achieving a less polished version of Wilson Phillips? Really?

Rating on the four-star scale: .5 stars.

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