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Elbow - Audio Vertigo (Album Review)

Thursday, 04 April 2024 Written by Graeme Marsh

Elbow’s 10th studio album reveals a strength that has not always been apparent in their work: the ability to remain succinct. Around 35 songs were whittled down to 12 for ‘Audio Vertigo’, which was tracked at their own Migration Studios in Gloucestershire. Clocking in at 39 minutes, it fits neatly on two sides of vinyl and does away with anything resembling the lengthy, drawn out efforts that stud their back catalogue. As a result, it skips along nicely.

The curtain rises with the moody single Things I’ve Been Telling Myself For Years. Sounding like latter-day Arctic Monkeys, the song neatly combines trademark Elbow sonics with a non-conformist structure and outbreaks of wah-wah guitar. It’s an instant attention-grabber, much like the bass-driven Lovers’ Leap, where frontman Guy Garvey adds echoey vocals to a cut that recalls early 1980s new wave.

Balu, indirectly named after the big cuddly bear from The Jungle Book, pays homage to a number of Garvey’s friends, who are rolled up into one new character. The song is a triumph, its glittering synth lines, funky core and brass bursts combining to create something very special. 

Very Heaven and Her to the Earth, meanwhile, are also major first half highlights. The former runs on booming bass and dual vocals in gorgeous harmony, while the latter is a unique melding of Stevie Wonder organ, a Talk Talk beat and stunning backing vocals as Garvey declares, all too accurately, that “we live in a troubling age”.

The one stick to beat ‘Audio Vertigo’ with is that it’s front-loaded. Its second stanza begins brilliantly with the upbeat, dramatic winner The Picture but soon loses momentum. “Can’t feel like this anymore,” Garvey bemoans during Poker Face, perhaps recalling excesses of our younger years that can no longer be considered. It’s all rather short and inconsequential, though. Knife Fight also lacks oomph until its outro leads to a higher plane as Garvey intones, “Hallelujah, buy us a pint.”

All things considered, ‘Audio Vertigo’ is another example of why Elbow are held in such high esteem. They have apparently become savvy self-editors while also maintaining the core appeal of past works — it’s reliable and welcoming rather than a career-topping masterpiece, but it’s a keeper all the same.

Elbow Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat May 04 2024 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 City Hall
Sun May 05 2024 - HULL Connexin Live
Tue May 07 2024 - BRIGHTON Centre
Thu May 09 2024 - LONDON O2 Arena
Fri May 10 2024 - BIRMINGHAM Resorts World Arena
Sat May 11 2024 - GLASGOW OVO Hydro
Sun May 12 2024 - LEEDS first direct Arena
Tue May 14 2024 - MANCHESTER Co-op Live
Wed May 15 2024 - NOTTINGHAM Motorpoint Arena
Fri June 07 2024 - MARGATE Dreamland
Mon July 01 2024 - DUBLIN Trinity College
Sun July 21 2024 - READING Englefield Estate
Fri July 26 2024 - LUDLOW Ludlow Castle
Sun August 04 2024 - SAFFRON WALDEN Audley End House

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