"Any day now, How's about getting out of this place? Anyways, Got a lot of spare time, Some of my youth, And all of my senses on overdrive" So goes the incredibly addictive refrain of Asleep in the Back's opening track Any Day Now. Yes, it's proggy and more than a little murky, but as with all the songs on this album, the longing heart shines through. This must in main be put down to Guy Garvey's superlative voice. Quite simply no-one can currently match him. Avoiding the histrionics of Starsailor's James Walsh, his voice is never less than warm and inviting, whatever he's singing, even the naked opening lines to Newborn, the album's highlight: "I'll be the corpse in your bathtub, Useless".
The contribution by Garvey's fellow musicians can not be understated. Whereas most bands now rip open the Beatles songbook for a riff, randomly hit the top string of the bass, and feel they have a song, Elbow carefully construct layered masterpieces. Nothing is out of place. The counterpoint backing melodies are superb. Pretty, picked acoustic guitars form the background to every song. Jupp's drumming is nothing less than a revelation. This is pretensionless prog, which before now seemed something of a contradiction in terms.
Comparisons with Radiohead are frankly bizarre. Kid A is the only thing that comes remotely close to it. And even then, Kid A is mostly harsh, often alienating music, far from the tender beauty of Elbow. On the quieter songs Elbow sound like a slightly more inventive Coldplay, which is a complement that serves them no justice whatsoever. The singles in Britain were impeccably chosen: Red, the gorgeous Powder Blue (complete with sad, lonely saxophone) and Newborn are the most accessible songs on the album, and highlight the power and fragility which colours all of this work. They pave the way for more rumbling, almost tribal hymns like Any Day Now, Little Beast and Bitten by the Tailfly, which has a stinging, electrified guitar burst which is possibly the most exciting moment of any album released this year. The bonus track which was not originally included on the first pressing of the album is confusingly also titled Asleep in the Back. It is a gentle, sighing waltz, and a gratefully received addition.
My favourite moment? On Coming Second, Garvey's words tumble down the melody and cry out with just a hint of bitterness and incredulity "Best dishevelled lover 3 years running, Coming second to, A picket fence white, nine to five, Who's just alive".
It is one of several heart-stopping moments on an album that lingers in the memory long after it has been played.
Guy Garvey is a new, original lyricist with the voice of the decade, backed by a new, exciting band. They deserve to take all before them.