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VINE VOICEon 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.

Brilliant.

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.
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on 14 March 2008
I first heard Elbow on one of those late night car journeys listening to the radio. The track was Any Day Now and I thought it was amazing. Slightly dissonant, almost like a medieval chant and it stuck in my head for days. There have been a further two albums since that debut which are both filled with consistently interesting tracks and increasingly honest lyrics dealing with Guy Garvey's relationships and emotions. Why anyone would bother listening to a band like Coldplay when they could have Elbow instead is beyond me but there we go. The band have said that this may be their last album proper with future work released on ep's and singles so is it a fitting farewell (of sorts)?

The album begins with Starlings; a cacophony of sound which suddenly cuts out to reveal a quiet glockenspiel punctured with loud horns and eventually Guy Garvey's voice sounding as heartfelt as ever. Bones Of You takes its starting point from the power of a song to transport you back in time to a memory - 'And I'm five years ago/And three thousand miles away' but we should realise that Garvey is not a rose tinted spectacles kind of guy. Mirrorball is a great example of what Elbow do well; a gorgeous ballad with piano, drums, soaring strings and Garvey's voice up close and personal, filled with emotion ' When we make the moon our mirror ball/the street's an empty stage;/the city sirens - violins./Everything has changed.' The tempo lifts with first single Grounds For Divorce, a down and dirty, bluesey, western influenced anthem with a kick. And then we have Audience With The Pope, a challenge to religion which with its Russian sounding melody comes on like a Bond theme 'I've an audience with the Pope/And I'm saving the world at eight/But if she says she needs me/Everybody's gonna have to wait'. Weather to Fly has a simple melody and three verses which go round in a similar way to Any Day Now, building in intensity, a beautiful track about the band's wish to follow their own course. Then we have the huge Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver a song which soars lyrically, vocally and musically. Richard Hawley guest duets with Garvey on The Fix, a real character piece which is steeped in smoky, after hours atmosphere. Some Riot is a quiet song, a plaintive cry to a friend in trouble. The big crowd pleaser One Day Like This is the penultimate track, filled with strings and a rousing chorus, sure to be a festival and live favourite with it's chorus of 'It's looking like a beautiful day'. The closing track Friend Of Ours is a heartfelt tribute to the seldom seen kid of the title, Bryan Glancy, a friend of the band who died two years ago. 'Never very good at goodbyes/So gentle shoulder charge.../Love you mate.' Touching stuff.

This is a fantastic collection of songs, not the kind of watered down pop that will make them a chart success like Coldplay or Snow Patrol but the sound of a band confident in their abilities (this album was self-produced for the first time). They have always been good at creating depth musically, and with the honesty of some of the lyrics and Garvey given full range with his voice this is a fitting tribute not only to Glancy but to the band themselves for following their own direction.
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In recent months both the huge support/acclaim for this album and the John Sergeant affair are proof that we should never underestimate our enduring ability as human beings to occasionally do the right thing. Elbow are a great band FACT. Never fashionable, no gimmicks, not much fuss but always able to create great music and sticking to their guns despite no immediate breakthrough on the cards. All their albums are streets ahead of the average run of the mill British bands, the likes of Keane and Snow Patrol. Here on "The Seldom Seen Kid" they move into overdrive. Some of the most wondrous songs ever recorded by a British band are contained on this CD and the album stands as a unified whole whether it be the dramatic sweep of "The loneliness of a tower crane driver" (a song that only Elbow could write) oor the grinding blues of "Grounds for divorce" . It is a number of absolute showstopper songs however which will twist your emotions into knots. "Weather to Fly" is jaw dropping in its simplicity, breathtaking in its beauty and had this reviewer weeping as if the day job was to peel one hundred raw onions. Running it a close second is "Mirroball", all power and romance with superb lyrics, not least the verse where Guy Garvey beautifully sings the words -

"We took the town to town last night.
We kissed like we invented it!
And now I know what every step is for:
To lead me to your door".

Then you have the Glastonbury anthem "On days like this", the lovely "The bones of you"" and the aching heartbreak of the very special "Friends of ours" dedicated to the bands great comrade Bryan Glancy which is the ideal closer with its tender refrain of "love yer mate". Anyone who loves music will have been ecstatic and chuffed to bits when they won the Mercury award. Their delight and response was a joy. Not for Elbow any of the "we are great artists and to good for awards" or "too hip to pretend that we really do care" attitude. Its been a long hard road for them to travel and Guy Garvey's and his band members reaction was genuine and honest just like their music. A final plea then, buy it for holiday or any birthday for every member of your family, give it to your friends, play it to the cat, send multiple copies to Simon Cowell and make him have Elbow theme night on the X Factor. Better still take that rubbish of the TV for a week and give the stage to Elbow. Make it the Christmas No 1 album, give a knighthood to each band member......I'm going for a lie down now.
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on 14 June 2008
Be careful if the volume is up on first song ("Starlings"). Apart from wishing the few blasts weren't so loud at its beginning, I couldn't be more delighted with this album. On a 1-5 scale, I'd rate every song a 4 or a 5 - and seven of the songs a 5 ("The Bones of You", "Mirror Ball", "Grounds for Divorce", "An Audience with the Pope", "The Fix", "Some Riot" and "On Days Like This"). This is not commom for me, even with my favorite groups (such as "The Fall" had been for two decades) I often only like a couple songs per album.

I suggest giving this album at least five listens. That's how long it took me to really appreciate it fully. And look at the included lyrics at least once while listening: Guy Garvey's wordsmanship and vocals are something else. The instrumentals are hardly lacking, often being beautiful. I don't have musical training so it's hard for me to describe what I'm hearing, it's not common at all. The only rocker was "Grounds for Divorce" and I admit that on my first few listens through this album I thought it might be the only one I'd really go for. I had "repeat" selected and kept playing "Grounds for Divorce" over and over. Loved it and still do. Better not to play the album in the car or if you do to keep the air conditioner down or off or that and other car noises will lessen the experience: the rest of the music is more subtle, delicate, sublime, not sure what adjectives are best, it goes beyond me to describe and it's lucky I can just listen apart from this review and recommendations to my friends.

I'll try to follow up by adding a comment in a month or two when I know how this album is holding up for me - or if I've moved on to other albums by Elbow which I'd definitely like to do. I've usually needed a fix of harder music (e.g. The Fall, The Plasmatics, Sex Gang Children), maybe I'm getting old but happening upon "The Seldom Seen Kid" has been an unexpected treat.
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on 6 April 2008
Now, if any band deserved a bit of over-hyping, it'd be Elbow, who have been criminally ignored by the mainstream for so long. I loved their last album, Leaders of the Free World, and still listen to it over and over. It's a great record, start-to-finish.

With LotFW, the band had finally translated their ability to make heart-brakingly beautiful songs into a whole album of brilliance. The first two albums, for me, contained some great songs alongside some, frankly, filler material.

And for me, unfortunately, the Seldom Seen Kid is a return to this form. I looked forward to it hugely, and played it over and over and over, and waited for it to "grow" on me as all Elbow albums do, but in the end I have found myself skipping too many songs, bored by them.

Yes, Elbow once again deliver some fantastic songs on this album. "Bones of You" is the highlight for me, as Guy describes his hum-drum hectic everyday life before "out of a doorway the tentacles stretch, of a song that I know and the world moves in slo-mo, straight to my head like the first cigarette of the day".

I just feel like the album COULD have been even better, but it's only because they set the bar so very high. But it's another very good album nonetheless, and I look forward to seeing where they go from here...
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on 19 February 2009
OK, so it won the 2008 Mercury Music Prize. OK, so it has the anthemic (and wonderfully brilliant) "One day Like This". OK, so Elbow won Best British Group at the 2009 Brits, but...is "Seldom Seen Kid" any good?

The answer to that is, of course, a resounding NO!...It is quite simply one of THE best British albums of the decade!!!

Lyrically, it is the work of genius as Guy Garvey conjours up images with his mastery of wit and pun, delivered in his distinctive and un-ashamedly Lancastrian brogue, yet his voice is sublime. I defy anyone, and I mean anyone, to dispute that Garvey possesses one of the finest voices that Britain has produced over the course of the last 30 years.

I always get the feeling that Elbow are just so relaxed about their music, that everything appears so easy to them, yet when listening to them, it is blatantly obvious that they are a supremely fluid band of musicians whose arrangements are complex and multi-layered, which all adds up to a sweet, sweet sound.

Uniquely British and very difficult to better, this is the sound of a band at the top of their game...long may it continue.
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on 21 March 2008
I bought this album partially as I already know the band but also on the back of their peformance on the Jonathan Ross show a few weeks back which I thought was outstanding. I had also read quite a few positive reviews so I awaited the arrival of the album with quite some anticipation. So I was somewhat surprised by the low notes and slurry sounds when I actually got the album onto my turntable. I realised of course that the album was actually cut at 45rpm although there is no indication of this anywhere on the album or on the Amazon entry (Amamzon take note!). I rarely play 45s so I had some tweaking to do to get my player working at that speed. Once I did and I started listening my hopes of a good sounding and musical album were fulfilled and it seems like a disc that will become more interesting with repeated plays.

So I would recommend you give the album a go but not if your record player is 33 1/3 rpm only...
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on 16 July 2008
I bought this album on the strength of 'One Day Like This' which I never tired of hearing on the radio, and the fact that I would be seeing Elbow at a summer music festival. I must admit that I am completely amazed by how much I love this album, I am no music critic but each track is so beautifully crafted and individual, sometimes the music is slow and melodic then it lifts you right up into the sky before gently bringing you down to earth again. Sometimes it is slightly reminiscent of Peter Gabriel, sometimes The Beatles, very slightly Coldplay (sorry!), a bit Keane (?) but overall a unique sound. Was just thinking that it was a bit Richard Hawley but I now see that he was involved....

I just keep playing this album over and over again. I must admit to skipping the first track because the fanfares are just a bit too loud for me! A wonderful buy.
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on 26 March 2008
Guy Garvey has been quoted as saying that this would be the last album that Elbow would be likely to release due to the changing musical landscape and the rise of the 3 minute download. I would kind of agree that the past-time of sitting and listening to an album seems to have gone the way of the doo doo as we all get Ipoded up, but if you are an old luddite like me and like to get the full 12 track treatment then this is the album for you. There is an excellent flow to the album, yes shades of 'asleep in the back' but that cant be a bad thing can it? If "the seldom seen kid" is a final love note to the late 20th centuries torrid affair with the album then I think you would have to look for a long time to fine another as well written and as endering as this one. Thank you Elbow,
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on 21 February 2009
Downloaded this album over Christmas and spent the following weeks listening to it over and over. This album hooked me right from the start, but it wasn't until I'd listend to it a few times and concentrated on the lyrics that I really fully appreciated just how good it was.

The lyrics are intelligent, witty and thought provoking both in their content and delivery. The imagery evoked in 'The Bones Of You' combined with the music is just amazing. The album journeys through many different styles and moods from the laconic wit of 'The Fix', the heavy guitar driven riffs of 'Grounds For Divorce' to the anthemic (see the BBC Omlympic coverage)'One Day Like This', all without missing a beat. An absolute delight of an album that deserves to be more widely known. Buy it and enjoy!
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