When I first heard ‘Cast Of Thousands’, my first exposure to Elbow, I was completely blown away by every aspect of the music, Garvey’s poetic and sensitive lyrics, the sumptuous arrangements, sudden busts of dissonance and overblown distortion and the sheer inventiveness of the playing and arrangements. I then traced back to first album ‘Asleep In The Back’, another masterpiece and Elbow became my favourite band.
Live they were brilliant too and managed to convey the feeling that they were performing to me and me only, which everyone else felt too judging by the awed silence and rapt cheers that greeted every song, here was a special band alright, but, like many others, they got lost in the massively inferior Coldplay‘s slipstream and seemed that they would be a hidden treasure forevermore, then after another excellent record ‘Leaders Of The Free World’, (their third masterpiece on the trot) almost disappeared among record company reshuffles, Elbow’s last chance saloon came along.
The result was fourth album ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’, which sold modestly (again!) upon release until the second single ‘One Day Like This’ took on a life of its own and propelled the band into the big league, staying in the UK charts for well over a year and peaking at #5 a year after its original release. However, ODLT was, for me, too obvious, too crass, too ‘anthemic’ and lacked Elbow’s usual exquisite subtlety and lyrical panache and stopped ‘TSSK’ from being Elbows fourth masterpiece.
The public begged to differ and it soundtracked a million victories/goals/triumphs over adversity on TV for the next few years, well and truly outstaying it’s welcome. On the plus side, it exposed the band to a deservedly wider audience which brought with it greater freedom and the fifth album ‘Build A Rocket Boys’ I approached with mild trepidation.Had they lost their magic? In the main, ‘BARB’ was a very good, but not a great album, inconsistent and with a few filler tracks (see ‘With Love’ (my least favourite Elbow track, hands down) and ‘Open Arms’ in particular, the latter being an obvious rewrite of ‘One Day Like This’ with the same glutinous strings and anthemic qualities and Guy Garvey’s most howlingly awful lyrics ever put to record.
The Signs didn’t bode well for album #6. So here we are with the new Elbow record ‘The Take Off And Landing Of Everything’ and I am pleased to report it is far better than ‘Build’, more consistently inventive and without any major lyrical banana skins, It begins solemnly with ‘This Blue World’ which, like many tracks here, builds slowly from almost imperceptibly quiet beginnings to a gorgeous wash of noise by the track’s end, unfurling over five plus minutes, never hurrying to labour a point, and is all the better for it. If the line ”While three chambers of my heart beat true and strong with love for another,The fourth, the fourth is yours forever” doesn’t give you goosebumps, the way Garvey sings it and the way the music swells around him, you are simply inhuman, so powerful is it’s simple excellence and heart chilling loveliness. Next track ‘Charge’ is excellent, a groovy chain-gang rhythm to which Garvey hangs his lyrical coat, playing a bitter old man in a pub being ignored by the younger generation.
‘Fly Boy Blue/Lunette’ is a spellbinding wash of loveliness which is only let down by the slightly glaring splice of part one into part two, ‘New York Morning‘ is their best single single ‘Grounds For Divorce’ and every track has much to recommend it, the beatbox barbershop of ‘Honey Sun’ especially. ‘The Take Off And Landing Of Everything’ is the first Elbow album since ‘Leaders..’ that will have you running to replay it once the record finishes, and not an everyman anthem in sight this time to ruin the flow, this is another quality Elbow album and though not their best (I’d still pick ‘Cast Of Thousands’ for that accolade) is definitely their best since their opening trio of excellence. Good on you lads!!