ELBOW Cast of Thousands (2003 11-track CD album including the singles Ribcage Fallen Angel Fugitive Motel Not A Job Grace Under Pressure and Switching Off)
An astonishingly intense and ambitious album, Elbow's Cast of Thousands
is relentlessly experimental. Having toiled for 10 years over their spellbinding Mercury-nominated debut Asleep in the Back
, the maverick Bury five-piece--who were initially hailed as the new Radiohead
--have produced a worthy sequel in a comparatively short two years. While mirroring their debut's melancholy tone, this album's romantic lyricism and uplifting harmonies inject a fresh dynamic.
From the first bar, Cast of Thousands is enthralling. "Ribcage", an exquisite rousing treasure, builds on a languorous and fragmented melody into a cohesive climax while Garvey listlessly intones (with a flat mic taped to his larynx) the charming mantra, "When the sunshine/ throwing me a lifeline/ finds its way in to my room/ all I need is you". Meanwhile, the London Community Gospel choir's spiralling harmonies echo Blur's "Tender" in its lo-fi, mellifluous majesty. But the majority of the album is far less grandiose with the haunting "Snooks (Progress Report)" and "I've Got Your Number" bristling with an unnerving intimacy and brooding dialogue. It's an enchanting return that finds Elbow stretching from despair to lovelorn tenderness. --Christopher Barrett