Top positive review
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Life's big issues by one of the best bands around.
on 22 February 2008
Rumoured to be Elbow's last new album in the traditional sense of the word (the band have hinted that future releases may be in the form of EP's / singles only) they return here with what can only be described as a beautiful, masterful, heartbreakingly delicate collection of simply brilliant songs.
It's an album on which Guy Garvey, lead singer and lyricist, seeks to address the big issues of life, love and loss and the resulting collection of songs is perhaps Elbow's finest to date.
"Starlings" starts the album off with aplomb, a hushed harmonised intro of vocals, glockenspiel and piano giving way to a huge burst of horns before Guy Garvey begins his vocal. Garvey has the sort of voice that could sing the entire telephone book to you and you'd still find it deep, and meaningful and melancholically beautiful.
"Bones Of You" with it's flamenco influences, details lyrically that moment whereby you're rushing around a town centre when suddenly you catch a few bars of a song you last hear when you were happy, and somewhere else, and it blasts you back to that time. And back to the love you felt then; "And I'm five years ago/and three thousand miles away". Musically it's quite a commercial and accessible song, like a few on the album. And there's a bitter lyrical under taste in the fact that it becomes apparent that the singer of the song has been lying to himself to a greater or lesser extent, all these years. Brilliant stuff.
Mirrorball is a typically stunning and beautiful Elbow ballad; "Dawn gives me a shadow I know to be taller. All down to you. Everything has changed." over acoustic drums and semi-whispered, right in your ear and head vocals. Gorgeous strings too. Stirring and yet romantic.
Grounds For Divorce, a track many of you have probably heard by now, or at the least seen the country and western tinged video, is based around a stinging guitar riff, part Bloc Party part Led Zep, and a darkly humorous lyric about spending far too much time in a spit and sawdust underground bar; "I've been working on a cocktail / Called grounds for divorce"
With "Audience With The Pope" Garvey tackles religion in a song that he's dubbed "A Bond theme if Bond was from Bury and a recovering Catholic.". It even has the requisite Bond-theme-esque guitar solo.
Next track "Weather To Fly" is beautiful and the sort of track Snow Patrol would record if they could actually write and sing songs that were anything deeper than shallow. It starts with a heartbreaking falsetto sub-vocal and a bass line that sounds distinctly "Chasing Cars" before the beautiful lyrics spin out over the gentle beats;
Pounding the streets where my fathers feet still
Ring from the walls,
we'd sing in the doorways,
or bicker and row
Just figuring how we were wired inside
Perfect weather to fly.
Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver is a stunningly intelligent track in which the misery of someone else's life is played out through all of us. Sounds complicated - it's actually brilliant. It's a heartfelt song, the type which Elbow do best, an industrial percussive line underpinning a swooning vocal and a string laden melody.
Richard Hawley duets with Garvey on next track "Fix", a chirpy, atmospheric, after last orders little number which lyrically deals with a pair of chancers making plans for their ill gotten gains.
Some Riot sounds like a mournful plea to a long lost friend, possibly "The Seldom Seen Kid" himself (Bryan Glancy, a friend of the bands who sadly died in 2007). "I think when he's drinking / he's drowning some kind of riot / what is my friend trying to hide / cos it's breaking my heart / it's breaking my heart".
"One Day Less" sounds like the natural successor to "Any Day Now", whether the main character's luck has changed. Or has it? The strings soar, the drums beat endlessly and Garvey swoons about seeing the light, and being in love.
"Friend Of Ours" is definitely a tribute to the bands lost friend Bryan Glancy, the seldom seen kid. It's beautiful, not at all sugary, and genuinely touching and moving. A fitting album closer if there ever was one. If Garvey's "Love you mate....." doesn't move you then you must have a heart of stone, surely.
This is a fantastic album, sure to please Elbow fans and I think equally sure to attract hoardes of new fans too. If you like your music delicate yet powerful, swooning yet direct and happy yet sad - this is most certainly the album, and the band, for you.