mon 29/11/2021

Album: Elbow - Flying Dream 1 | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Elbow - Flying Dream 1

Album: Elbow - Flying Dream 1

Eschewing big-arena balladeering, Guy Garvey and co have staged a revolution for no 9

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A poet I know once went to a boarding school to deliver an open class on poetry. Part of the day consisted of the children producing poems of their own, which their guest teacher then looked over and discussed with them. Almost every one was about flight, or escape into vast, open swathes of nature. These weren’t poems, he realised, these were the yearning, silent screams of perpetual prisoners.

I was reminded of this when listening to Flying Dream 1, the ninth studio album from big-hearted rock band Elbow. Even pop stars with a nifty niche in singalong anthems couldn’t escape a pandemic-prompted lockdown. For Elbow, however, being stuck indoors seems to have been a breath of fresh air. 

Free from the pressure of the practise studio, members sent each other song snippets as they suggested themselves – “little love notes”, as the band refer to them. Over time, these bones found their flesh, the band co-parenting them into maturity at separate addresses, before the recording sessions at an empty Brighton Theatre Royal.

The result is an album of extraordinary and fascinating contradiction. Songs conceived within four walls that speak of elemental places, wide open spaces and sounds that carry on the wind. “Six words released like birds into the brightening ether,” sings Guy Garvey on “Six Words”, before declaring, “The sky's gonna open up and I'll be flooded out to open water.”

Similarly, given the vast expanse of an empty theatre to record, the songs themselves sound surprisingly intimate. Not introspective, but certainly reflective; diminuendo, but not diminished. We’re given the jazzy overtones and late-night barroom croon of the titular opener; the delicate, brushworked drums and breathy chords of recent single “Seldom Seen Kid” (which shares its title with the band’s 2008 LP); the soft, sparse notes and sing-song, lullaby melody of “Calm and Happy”. These feel like songs written in a still space, the inbetween hours we find when we stop running and allow the day to open up to us.

Flying Dream 1 is an album that rewards repeated listens, rather than giving an instant payout. Those expecting rousing guitar ballads with huge emotional squalls and buoyant belief might be left feeling short-changed. If they listen a little harder however, they’ll still find that optimism wrapped in bruised nostalgia. It’s less immediate, perhaps, but more considered and more interesting for it. 

@jahshabby

'Flying Dream 1' is an album that rewards repeated listens, rather than giving an instant payout

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Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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