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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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For the first time in their long career Elbow release an album as one of the mainstays of British music as opposed to a perennial aspiring contender. Its easy to forget that prior to the "Seldom Seen Kid" their album sales would not have been sufficient to fill a large Bury pub as opposed to a football stadium. Ok this is an exaggeration but in every sense Seldom Seen Kid was a game changer for a band who had looked like they might drift out music lauded with critical praise but lacking mass popular acclaim.

On this fifth album they quietly and confidentially produce a record, which shows a band comfortable in its own skin. It does have some echoes of their best album "Leaders of the Free World" which was packed with big songs and thoughtful ballads, which took a while to register with music lovers, but once they got it they were locked into the Elbow "cell" with the key thrown away. There was little chance of the band producing Seldom Seen Kid 2 not least since Guy Garvey has admitted that the lead up to the album consciously felt "like a last-chance effort last time," and as a result they threw in everything and the kitchen sink. Pressure comes in different forms and follow ups can be equally tricky but on "Build a rocket boys" Elbow have succeeded and more.

All Elbow albums can take months to digest and on the first listens the overwhelming impression is of a slow burn. From there on the songs reveal themselves and even at this early stage if Elbow were to release a Greatest Hits album tomorrow at least four of the songs on here would be shoe in's. The most obvious is the gorgeous centerpiece "Lippy Kids" the lyrics of which contain the albums title and which is a poignant meditation on being young where Garvey reflects on "Stealing booze and down long hungry kisses/And nobody knows me at home anymore". It leads to that regretful questioning readily understood to all people over a certain age that "Do they know those days are golden"? "Lippy Kids" is worth the price of admission alone, but it is matched by "Dear Friends" which derives to be played on repeat at least ten times and was is in Garvey's words devised "in the middle of a US tour, telling my friends I was thinking of them that day and it made me feel at home". It is simply breathtaking and will strike chords with anyone missing friends or family. The other songs which screams out on initial listens are the gentle acoustic heartbreak love song "Jesus was a Rochdale girl" which rolls along at a snails pace and is beautifully sung by Garvey while Open Arms is a classic Elbow ballad which I can't wait to hear live at their Cardiff gig later this month.

Throughout the album Craig Potter and the rest of the band weave those intricate haunting melodies and when they step up to the plate it's a force of nature, The big opener "The Birds" literally explodes at 5 minutes and is beautifully reprised later with their piano tuner John Mosley bringing an aged fragility to the song. In between you get the second hypnotic Elbow tribute to the late Brian Clancy "The night will always win" the more expansive mood guitar shifts of High ideals" and the swampy urban blues of the punchy "Neat little rows".

"Build a rocket boys" sees the quality control button on full. Granted it does not represent a huge departure for the band and "With Love" backed by many voices is a bit Elbow by formula. These are nonetheless nit picking complaints since Elbow has hit a winning formula but it is not one of either U2 bombast or Coldplay repetition. Elbow is a band where the music is about shade, nuances and beauty, as such "Build a Rocket boys" is a seductive treat and is destined to be lodged at the top of the album charts for a very long time.
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The Seldom seen kid (released in early 2008) elevated Elbow from little known Bury band to Mercury Winning - stadium filling stars. Build a rocket boys! has been several years in the making and I was fortunate enough to have my copy drop through my letterbox several days before release so have managed several listens already. I have to say at this point that It takes me several listens to really appreciate Elbow songs and this album has seen no change. Songs such as Lippy kids have been widely promoted and this track is likely to be more of the band that most people know and love. However further listens show that Elbow know this terrain well, there are slow building songs here that are layered and complex and will take repeated listens to enjoy. The subjects of youth, love, loss and death are all here and Guy Garvey does a wonderful job of injecting so much emotion into his songs with what appears to be such ease. Nowhere else in the album is this so true than in The River a stripped back song of raw emotion that is simply beautiful. There is no change in direction here from Elbow, something that i think they should be highly commended for, they do here what they did so well on the TSSK. An album that propelled them to such a wider audience that there must have been both persuasion and temptation for them to write anthemic stadium songs - the closest that BARB! has is Neat little rows.
This album looks set to follow in the footsteps of TSSK with real pride and that in itself is a real achievement for Elbow to be proud of - and one that we will be enjoying for quite some time to come.
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on 20 June 2014
At last we have a modern group that create beautiful music. As a real oldie I have long lamented the common lack of of a blend of beautiful sounds and meaningful words in contemporary pop music. Elbow's "Build a Rocket Boys!" album is one of the best I've heard for years.Lyrical and meaningful and worth playing time and again.
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on 24 July 2011
Elbow are one of those bands who manage to get under your skin in a very subtle and sub-conscious manner. That was certainly the case with their previous album "The Seldom Seen Kid" which was like a fantastic novel - you could not put it down.

Sadly, this album is OK but lacks instant grab of previous albums. There is no one track that makes you want to click the replay button. Die hard Elbow fans will love it come what may but this is not one of their seminal works.
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on 11 May 2014
Guy Garvey looks like a builder an everyday bloke then he opens his mouth and the voice of an angel erupts.Once again the words and music on this album are haunting and poetic.Elbow can do no wrong in my eyes
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on 9 March 2011
This is a delightful album from start to finish and I am very glad to see the lads have carefully hewn a blissful, characterful, honest and organic piece of art by doing exactly what they want to do.

The massive highlight for me is "The Birds", a powerful and moving piece with the hypnotic melody taking us on a journey at first floating on top of grimy industrial guitar then over Gabrielesque electronics and suddenly to fly to the heavens on a fulsome sweeping orchestration which was for me literally breathtaking. Guys voice goes from the chanting mantra of the first part to emotional belting, never missing a trick. A really cracking track, very uplifting and chill & tear-inducing. A new Newborn of ever there was one.

I've already come to love "High Ideals", thumping bassline and quick tom-toms as a canvas to a clever conversations between guitar, strings and keyboards, it sounds like a musical chain reaction is taking place and there is a vaguely Oriental pentatonic motif punctuating the track. Wonderful textures and so Elbow.

A very untypical track is "The River", a plaintive and undeniably beautiful song, ebbing and flowing like a tide. It is beautifully sparse and delicate like early Kate Bush or possibly later stuff from Cinematic Orchestra. I just wish it was longer.

The album has its eminently chantable anthems in "Open Arms" and "Neat Little Rows" which are typically warm and truly uplifting but I feel it is unavoidable that virtually every TV incidental music technician will be deploying excerpts as soon as they can - you have been warned. Guy's openness and poetic soul are more then evident on track like "Jesus.." and "Dear Friends"

Another unmitigated and unapologetic triumph.
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on 11 April 2011
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.
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on 26 January 2014
My CD collection numbers enough to start my own store ... this CD from Elbow has flown in to my top 100 and is likely to hit the top 50 at some time. Their live performances are a dream ... Elbow aren't a band, they are an experience, a performance and very, very wonderful !
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on 2 November 2012
Although not their best (how do you top Seldom Seen Kid) this is still a great album from Elbow. Lippy Kids is a fantastic tune and is one of my favourite Elbow tracks, Jesus is a Rochdale girl, The Night will always win, Open Arms these are all great songs. I have not seen them live for a few years but i think with the fantastic songs they they have written in the past few albums they now have a cannon of songs that is up there with the very best.
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on 17 April 2011
Out of all the albums Elbow has made, this one is more of a grower. Their previous records all had some instantly likeable songs that drew you back in very easily. On this album, most of the songs don't jump out at you upon first listen as being something special. There is quite a different style to some of this - significant use of the instruments copying the exact tune that Guy Garvey is singing, and unusual use of the Hallé youth choir, particularly on "With Love". I have to say that on the first few listens this seemed to come perilously close to being annoying and a little unimaginative.

Somehow though, this band manage to pull it off. On repeated listens it all seems to come together and you realise that doing something in an unconventional way doesn't mean it's wrong. Truly, nobody else could get away with it but this band seem to turn everything into gold.

Guy Garvey's lyrics and imagination are a key element to this. On the astonishing "Lippy Kids", we get a kind of protest song against the generation gap. "Do They Know those Days...are golden...Build a Rocket boys". I am not sure what the "build a rocket boys" really means, but it must be something magical. In this song he gives permission to himself, and all of us lucky enough to get it, to look back with love instead of guilt on those countless young days spent hanging around with friends in bus shelters or on street corners. Few songs can truly change the way you see something about life - this one worked for me. (WARNING - if you read the Daily Mail often you probably won't get this song).

Once you've listed to them a fair few times, all the songs here have something to offer. The other standout is "Open Arms" - a kind of modern Mancunian take on the parable of the prodigal son, and the spiritual successor to Elbow's deserved breakthrough moment "One Day Like This". A word of warning though - if you were lucky enough to see their recent Arena tour or catch them on the Jules Holland show recently, you will realise that this song has already evolved on live performance from something merely excellent to something wonderful. Unlike "One Day Like This", the studio recording doesn't quite fully capture how great this song is.

Some may rue the transition they have made from the darker aspects of their first few albums to the more optimistic life affirming attitude of the last 2 LPs. Sure, Elbow have become happier over the years, but it hasn't stopped them from making some fantastic songs.

I recently saw a blog comment that Elbow should open the Olympic Games next year. Over the top maybe, but this band truly represent some of the best that the UK has to offer.
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