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Elbow - The Take Off And Landing Of Everything (Album Review)

Monday, 10 March 2014 Written by Graeme Marsh

On first listen, Elbow’s sixth studio album, and first since 2011’s ‘Build A Rocket Boys’, sounds rather familiar, turgid even, never reaching the standard set by One Day Like This, the group’s anthemic yardstick and, increasingly, a monkey on their backs. But, thankfully, first impressions don’t always paint a full picture.

Produced by keyboard player Craig Potter, the album’s recording was split between Blueprint Studios, Salford, very much home turf for the Bury boys, and Real World Studios in Wiltshire, but there is a strong sense of New York throughout.

The city that never sleeps became a sanctuary for Guy Garvey as a long term relationship came to an end, with the band’s singer and principal songwriter also recently hitting 40. This record, then, crosses some of the most pivotal moments in his life to date.

The result is unavoidably morose, with a distinct feeling of sadness and regret flowing through his lyrics – even more so than usual. Album opener This Blue World sets the scene immediately as a simple, constant beat and quiet organ accompaniment create a beautifully melancholy atmosphere before a stunningly effective chorus lights up the song.

The funereal intro to Charge, which first surfaced in 2012, develops into an orchestral ode to loneliness, with Garvey’s lyrics speaking volumes of the emotional turmoil he was experiencing. Similarly, eerie organ plays an important part in Real Life, with the song flying for just a fleeting moment as Garvey cries, “Hallelujah morning”.

Although there are no gargantuan epics present here, there are tracks that come close. Single Fly Boy Blue / Lunette bounces along, darting between simple verses and wailing saxophone and string sections. Garvey rues “my newest friends have forgotten my name”.  

My Sad Captains is another highlight. After a music box intro, the song unfolds into more mellow melancholy, with touches of brass and a synth-backed chorus creating a thing of beauty. The title track is also a belter, teetering on the edge of greatness throughout as its two-chord sweeps punctuate a locomotive chug.

The album’s most emphatic moment arrives in the shape of New York Morning, though. The track gradually builds, layer upon layer, as harmonious vocals couple with a crescendo of noise to sketch out something spine-tinglingly satisfying. “Everybody owns the great ideas, and it feels like there’s a big one round the corner”, croons Garvey, and in truth, that’s a neat summation of the record.

Many tracks bear the hallmarks of classic Elbow, without quite exploding into anthemic giants. The first listen may be an unrewarding one, and questions will likely arise as to what all the fuss is about, but repeated visits will reveal sparkling treasures as Garvey pours his heart and soul into every word, constantly surpassing his best work from the past.

Elbow UK & Ireland Tour Dates are as follows

Mon March 31 2014 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 Academy Newcastle
Sat April 05 2014 - BIRMINGHAM LG Arena
Sun April 06 2014 - GLASGOW SSE Hydro
Tue April 08 2014 - CARDIFF Motorpoint Arena Cardiff
Wed April 09 2014 - MANCHESTER Phones 4u Arena
Fri April 11 2014 - LEEDS first direct Arena
Sat April 12 2014 - LIVERPOOL Echo Arena
Mon April 14 2014 - NOTTINGHAM Capital FM Arena
Wed April 16 2014 - LONDON O2 Arena
Tue June 24 2014 - CORK Live At The Marquee
Wed June 25 2014 - DUBLIN Museum of Modern Art

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