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Elbow - Flying Dream 1 (Album Review)

Friday, 26 November 2021 Written by Graeme Marsh

Over the course of Elbow’s career, the Mancunian group have tended to pepper their albums with cacophonous rabble rousers amongst more genteel, subtle pleasantries. While these stadium-ready anthems have taken all the plaudits, it’s often been the more sedate songs, which tick along beneath their neighbours’ grandiosity, that carry the albums home.

For LP nine, however, things were made more difficult by working at a distance from each other. Vocalist Guy Garvey has described ‘Flying Dream 1’ as “hushed night-time missives”. As such, possibly for the first time, there are no big pillars supporting the record at all. It’s the reflective, quieter side of Elbow that’s showcased here.

Soothing seems to be the best way to describe this effort. The title track doubles up as opener and its beautiful piano chords are warming—it’s gorgeous, as is the ensuing melancholy of After The Eclipse.

Come On Blue also adopts this gentle approach and the lack of bombastic instrumentation gives Garvey’s vocals a boost that we’ve not heard over the course of a whole album before.

Removing the temptation to skip ahead in search of the next big, emotive release also allows ‘Flying Dream 1’ to flow beautifully. More attention can be paid to the beauty of the most subtle inflections, such as Is It A Bird’s jabbing bass coupling with Garvey’s vulnerability and some jazzy sax touches. It is reminiscent of Talk Talk when they entered their more experimental stage. It’s not quite at the level of ‘Laughing Stock’, though, more ‘Spirit of Eden’.

At times they appear to be heading for the usual peaks, but they never quite attempt the summit. Six Words and The Seldom Seen Kid—also the name of an earlier Elbow album, of course—tread this path, and the former is stunning in its simplicity. Closer What Am I (Without You) ventures out further, but just a little. It would not do to upset the flow at the last second.

By subverting expectations, Elbow have been able to fully embrace and accurately sketch the beauty found within their more introverted side. It may have been inadvertently achieved, but the removal of the rafter-shakers has perhaps resulted in their best album to date.

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