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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