When I first heard this album, I was disappointed. Unfortunately after a few plays, I'm still disappointed. If I'd never heard Elbow before, things might be different, but having been a huge fan of their previous albums (particularly Leaders of the Free World and The Seldon Seen Kid), this just isn't up to scratch in my opinion.
One of the main reasons I've been so impressed by Elbow in the past is the way they produce some of the most complex, perfectly orchestrated harmonies you'll ever hear. Unfortunately those are few and far between on this album.
'The Birds' is a great song and, as far as I'm concerned, saves the album. 'Lippy Kids' and 'Neat Little Rows' are fairly good. And that's pretty much it. 'With Love' is almost good, but personally I can't stand the choir that chant 'with love' every few seconds during the chorus. Just my opinion, but I find it really irritating. 'Open Arms' is a nice song, but it's a bit too obvious, musically and lyrically.
I'd still say Elbow are one of the greatest British bands of the last decade, and this album's worth a listen, but in my opinion it's a long way from their best work. Sorry guys.