on 25 July 2003
This album is everything i hoped for and more from the follow-up to 'Asleep in the Back.' The first thing that struck me was that it didn't really have any obviously "stand-out" tracks such as 'Newborn' and 'Red' on Asleep in the Back. However, after a few listens the album and certain songs in particular started to seep inside my head and this album overall is a more complete, more subtle and better sewn together piece of work than Elbow's excellent debut. The DVD is also very good and easy to watch all the way through unlike other DVD albums i own, which really do require a great deal of patience to watch. Magnificent.
on 1 October 2003
What ever happened to the 'notoriously difficult' second album that bands usually fell down on? A myth to suit yesterday's bands me thinks. Nowadays the 2nd album brings maturity, progression, and such and such. Coldplay did it with Rush of Blood..., Doves did it with The Last Broadcast, and now I'm very happy to annouce that Elbow have done it too with Cast of Thousands.
Their debut album, Asleep at the Back was definately an album to play late at night when you want to get your emotion on. Powder Blue and Newborn were made to pull on those little heart strings that we all seem to possess deep down. It was an album full of epic, emotion driven songs that we all fell in love with.
Cast of Thousands is more subtle. For those of you who have bought it on the back of Fallen Angel or Asleep at the back (album), played it once, and shelved it to the 'will never play again unless i'm dead bored' part of your CD collection, believe me, you are missing out on a gem.
It is an album that has to be played 7 or 8 times before you can even start to comprehend it's magic. OK, it has its catchy tunes like the 'Fallen Angel' and 'Buttons and Zips' (There is almost a 'The Chicken or the Egg' paradox behind the chorus "Will I ever get this song off my lips, thats what you said"), but after a few more plays, you start to get hooked on songs like 'Fugative Motel' and 'Not a Job', and realise this is probably the best stuff you've heard since OK computer was around.
'Switching Off' is this albums Newborn, the almost naked voice of Guy Garvey has never sounded as good. This guy really means what he's singing, it obvious isn't it? It's coming from his soul. You don't hear that sort of emotion in voices coming out of the kids on the millions of manufactured bands we seemed to be bludgeoned with. But don't worry Mr Garvey, you are making sense to me, and I know exactly what you are trying to say.
Other highlights of the album include the spiritulised-esque 'Ribcage', the devilishly delightful 'I've got your number', with the dirtiest organ you will ever hear. 'Grace Under Pressure' is another Newborn-type epic, with a little help from a certain glastonbury crowd.
This is definately an album worth buying. It's full of soul, magic, raw emotional power. Well down Elbow for making another superb album.
We still believe in love.
on 12 January 2004
The view from the gutter has never been so beautifully soundtracked. This is far more consistant than their debut - and that was astonishing. Elbow have received every plaudit going for this CD and still they haven't lodged themselves in the public conscience. Why oh why?
If you're still doubting, here's a few reasons:
'Fallen Angel' - insistent throbbing pop. Taught and tense and a great lost single.
'Not A Job' - More pulsating pop with a bruised heart.
'Fugitive Motel' - beautifully poised loneliness that somehow manages to lift the soul.
'I've Got Your Number' - never has verbal violence sounded so sweet, dissolving into one of the filthiest Hammond organ solos ever recorded.
'Switching off' - simply the most beautiful and poignant song written in the last 5 years.
'Buttons and Zips' - rude and funky goings on in the garden shed.
'Grace Under Pressure' - it takes off like a Harrier jump jet and then brings in the whole of the audience at Glastonbury to push it even further up!
Oh look, what more do you want, just buy the bloody thing!
on 14 July 2003
Though written in a fraction of the time, Cast Of Thousands seems to pick up where Asleep In The Back left off. Most of the tracks are closer in feel than they were on the debut album. The lows are not quite so low, but the highs are definitely higher.
The opening 4 tracks are all stunning. "Ribcage" brings in slightly disharmonic vocal choirs over an excellent repeating motif, and brilliant lyrics ("pull my ribs apart, and let the sun inside.") "Fallen Angel" marks a new progression for Elbow, with soaring chorus in a conventional structure. "Fugitive Motel" is simply the best on the album, with a heart-stoppingly poignant chorus and brilliant harmonies. Elbow are in a higher gear than anything previously. Simply outstanding.
"Snooks" retains the feel of the first album, with plaintive percussion and some of the scariest sounds you will ever hear.
"Switching Off" lowers the gear to a mournful ballad, then it moves up again for the radio-friendly "Not A Job."
"I've Got Your Number" has a smoky jazz feel, with double bass and brushed percussion, but again features the trademake Elbow raucous clang and what must be the greatest guitar (?) sound since Bowie's Fashion - and probably better.
"Buttons and Zips" is the only disappointment on the album, but things improve with "Crawling With Idiot", a typically slow-paced down-beat track.
"Grace Under Pressure" sees a more optimistic and sunny Elbow than ever before, with an uplifting refrain over up-tempo, heavy beats and the audience from Glastonbury joining in part way through.
With the throw-away closing track "Flying Dream", the whole feels on a par with Asleep In The Back and at times certainly betters it. Though it is apparent that this album was written faster, and it is occasionally more mainstream, it's still a wonderful piece of work that gets better with each listen, and it should be eagerly consumed. It will repay the investment you give it.
As with the first album, there's enough depth, richness and variety here to take you to every point on the emotional compass and it is greater than the sum of its parts.
On the strength of this, catch them before they become world-class.
on 3 August 2005
It'd been my experience that the more you listen to Elbow, the better they get. When I was given their first album Asleep In The Back, I just had it on in the background while I read a book. Didn't really think too much about it considering how much my flatmate hyped them up. I liked the first track alright but it didn't throw me out of the chair. A week later I listened to it again but this time I really listened to it. "Hey! This is pretty good," I thought and listened to it twice more that day. I liked it more each time. The new album is made the same way. The first time I listened to it I didn't think it was as good as their first. Then I listened to it again and again and so will you.
It sounds a bit more polished than Asleep but is just as moving and it's a bit more psychedelic but just as powerful. Although Elbow sounds relatively familiar, they have a fairly timeless sound, not borrowing too heavily from any one decade's influences. While the first album tended to have a few more all out rock moments, Cast Of Thousands sees Garvey and company matured to a more composed and collected form. Their power lies in their simplicity...but it's pretty much pointless to try to fully explain the movement of Elbow. Their work just needs to be felt. Imagine that! Feelings still exist some 20 years after Satan launched his own channel, MTV. In the words of the Glastonbury 2002 crown at the end of "Grace Under Pressure," an amazingly moving song, "we still believe in love so f**k you!"
on 7 October 2003
A strong powerful album chock full of beautiful melodious songs.
Some of the best are:
Ribcage- Slow burning, melancholy but still very melancholy album. It's completely delicious.
Fallen Angel- A rollicking rock song.
Fugitive Motel- A very atmospheric, very good song.
Got Your Number- Smoky jazz with a lovely jarring organ part.
Grace Under Pressure- Could be the best song on the album. A wonderful riff is spread over a great DJ beat, an orchestra and the crowd at Glastonbury 2002.
Definitely worth the money. A fantastic album.
on 22 March 2004
The only thing that springs to mind is how amazing this album is.
With a similer feel to Placebo, Radiohead and Pink Floyd, Elbow are definitely going to be worth keeping an eye on.
There are so many different sounds to this album that nobody can listen to it just the once and come up with a sure verdict. In fact, it took me quite a while to warm to the variations of sound within each song.
The key with this album is to not immediately pay attention to the lyrics, but to the different emotions that are created in extremly interesting and inventive ways. For example, "Fugitive Motel" - (My personal favourite) starts off with a feel that's almost hawaiian. The dog barks, the waves crash on the shore and a wonderful "twangy" sound is created. This mood is changed abruptly when the singing starts. His melodic voice never fails to send shivers up and down my spine.
Once you have listened to the whole album a number of times, then you can look at the lyrics. Again, going back to "Fugitive Motel", the lyrics are heartbreaking: "I'm tired I said, You always look tired, she said. I'm admired, I said. You always look tired, she said." How simple is that, and yet it never fails to break my heart.
To listen to this album, I think that you either need to be extremly chilled out or depressed. Works both ways for me.
If you don't give this album its deserved second listen to, then you're the one missing out on some extremly touching, artistic music.
Given the success of the last album with its Mercury Award nomination (which it should have won) and its brilliantly moody & brooding arrangement that coupled together anthemic melodies and claustrophobic neurosis, elbow were left to work under a bit of pressure to replicate what they had already achieved.
The secret charm behind this record is that, at first, 'Cast of Thousands' flatters to deceive. This is only because the expectancy is so great. However, if you cast your mind back you will remember that 'Asleep In The Back' tracks like "Red", "Powder Blue" and the quite astounding "Newborn" took a little while to effect their enchanting spell on you...
The same applies to this album which is of a similar supreme quality. Gifted musicians with noticeable innovation are led by an angelic Guy Garvey on real form. Again you will be close to being embarrassed for thinking this album wasn't up to scratch as each and every song seeps into your affections.
Lyrically the album is sardonic, creepy, and tender at different times and the tone switches between these spasmodically. Indeed it has a very eccentric feel and this continually allows new nuances to be explored and brings to mind albums by Blur and Mogwai.
Standouts include "Crawling With Idiots" with its evocation of despair given a resonance of sheer beauty by Garvey and "Switching Off" which is delicately flawless, much like the rest of this superb album.
on 14 September 2003
The first time I heard this album. I liked it but it didn't come across as anything that hadn't been done before.
After a few goes I started to fall under its spell, the vocals are beautiful and sung with passion. And with every play tracks reveal more depth than originally perceived.
A superb album.
on 10 February 2004
Wow! Every time I listen to Cast of Thousands new layers and depth are revealed. It's a truely brilliant recording. It fits right in with the best that Coldplay, Catherine Wheel, Blur (Think Tank), Starsailor, Radiohead or Doves can do.
Support good music. Get It Now!