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Elbow - Little Fictions (Album Review)

Monday, 06 February 2017 Written by Graeme Marsh

Elbow are like that piece of well-worn furniture in the corner of your living room: familiar, comforting and snug. Right now, their music is a safe haven from the political madness engulfing the world.

Having steadily become a British institution across their previous six studio albums, ‘Little Fictions’ arrives just two years after the success of ‘The Take Off And Landing Of Everything’. Internally, the album will be remembered as the first collection without founding member and drummer Richard Jupp, who has now left the band to concentrate on other interests.

To everyone else, though, it’s business as usual on another impressive collection written between sessions in Scotland and singer Guy Garvey’s home, and once again recorded at the band’s own Salford-based Blueprint Studios.

Opening track Magnificent (She Says) was also the first single and features the warm strings of fellow Mancunians the Hallé Orchestra. “It’s all gonna be magnificent,” croons Garvey, as though he's softly reassuring us that ‘Little Fictions’ will live up to its billing.

And it’s a largely accurate statement, although the track instantly grabs a claim for being its biggest highlight. Its propulsive bassline patrols like a heartbeat alongside the dramatic string section on a song that guitarist Mark Potter has claimed “is the song people have been waiting for us to write”.

Any new Elbow album is likely to have casual fans skimming over tracks in the hope of unearthing another rousing roof-raiser like One Day Like This. Although lacking anything quite so grandiose or lavish, ‘Little Fictions’ does contain some mini-mountains.

Firstly, the jangly optimism of the slow building All Disco – a song inspired by a radio interview Garvey conducted with the Pixies’ Black Francis – approaches the euphoric highs the band occasionally aim for, while closer Kindling features more spine-tingling strings that warm your insides like a hearty dinner. Going one better, though, is the eight-minute title track, which mesmerises with an almost tribal beat as it tells its story through down-to-earth lyrics like “battle cry across the kitchen table”.

From melancholy resignation and brooding relaxation (Trust The Sun) to easy listening (K2) via heartwarming choruses (Head For Supplies), ‘Little Fictions’ does much to bolster the band’s legacy. There’s also a nod to Talk Talk in more than one place, perhaps most notably with the meandering piano riff of Firebrand & Angel.

Walking a dangerous line between subtly enchanting and mundane, every Elbow album has its less captivating moments, though. Accordingly, there’s little excitement offered by Gentle Storm despite the song being paired with a video, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, inspired by Godley & Crème’s Cry from 1985. Similarly, the minimalist, sub-three minute Montparnasse is over without ever evolving into the cacophonous anthem it teasingly hints at.

Best-suited to a quiet night, ‘Little Fictions’ stops just short of Elbow’s very best, which is no bad thing. So why not slip into your soft, dog-eared slippers and dressing gown, settle down in your favourite armchair and enjoy some relaxation in these increasingly troubled times?

Elbow Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sun February 26 2017 - DUBLIN Olympia
Mon February 27 2017 - DUBLIN Olympia
Wed March 01 2017 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Thu March 02 2017 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Sat March 04 2017 - LONDON Eventim Apollo
Sun March 05 2017 - LONDON Eventim Apollo
Mon March 06 2017 - LONDON Eventim Apollo
Wed March 08 2017 - BOURNEMOUTH BIC
Thu March 09 2017 - PLYMOUTH Pavilions
Fri March 10 2017 - NEWPORT Newport Centre
Sun March 12 2017 - EDINBURGH Usher Hall
Mon March 13 2017 - EDINBURGH Usher Hall
Tue March 14 2017 - BRIDLINGTON Spa
Wed March 15 2017 - DONCASTER Dome
Thu March 16 2017 - LEICESTER De Montfort Hall
Sat March 18 2017 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Sun March 19 2017 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Mon March 20 2017 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Tue March 21 2017 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Thu June 15 2017 - TETBURY Westonbirt Arboretum
Sat June 17 2017 - TUNBRIDGE WELLS Bedgebury Pinetum
Wed June 21 2017 - CORK Live at the Marquee
Sat June 24 2017 - PICKERING Dalby Forest
Sun June 25 2017 - NOTTINGHAM Sherwood Pines
Thu June 29 2017 - BRANDON Thetford Forest
Fri June 30 2017 - NORTHWICH Delamere Forest
Thu July 06 2017 - TYNEMOUTH Tynemouth Priory and Castle
Fri July 07 2017 - RUGELEY Cannock Chase Forest

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