thu 02/07/2020

CD: Elbow - Build a Rocket Boys! | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Elbow - Build a Rocket Boys!

CD: Elbow - Build a Rocket Boys!

More grit and romance from Guy Garvey and the guys

Elbow: Gritty, but romantic, too

There’s a gorgeous song on this album called “With Love”, on which singer Guy Garvey rhymes “dentures” with “adventures”. And there, in a nutshell, you have Elbow: juxtaposing grubby, prosaic earthbound reality with soaring romance, finding magic in the everyday. And what accentuates this gift of theirs is Garvey’s habit of singing in his native Lancastrian vernacular (why, apart from the Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, don’t more English singers sound like English singers?); his accent summons up images of mottled northern townscapes and lowering skies, while lyrical flourishes such as the “simian stroll” of “Lippy Kids” add to the picture; his tenor delivery, by contrast, has a quality of sweetness and innocence. Grit and romance.

Build a Rocket Boys! treads a similar path to the one that Elbow have been following for the past 20 years, which is no bad thing – having produced just five albums in that time, they could hardly be accused of flogging a dead horse. The opening song, "The Birds", follows the familiar Elbow template, which was finally brought to a wider audience by the success of their 2008 Mercury Prize-winning album, The Seldom Seen Kid: a slow, solemn rhythm, the steady accretion of layer upon layer of instrumentation, a soaring melody, a sense of uplift, and finally a big moment of sunbursting ecstasy. Glorious. The remaining 10 tracks are a likewise familiar mixture of sweet, quiet, semi-acoustic tunes, darker guitar-driven numbers and widescreen epics, all densely textured, multilayered and packed with detail, supplemented by contributions from Manchester’s Hallé Youth Choir.

There’s always been a plaintive quality to Elbow’s music, but here it seems more pronounced, with songs such as "Jesus is a Rochdale Girl" (exquisite electric piano) evoking a powerful sense of nostalgia, a bittersweet yearning for the simplicity of youth. But there’s glory, too, in the form of “Open Arms”, a classic piece of singalong Elbow in the same vein as “One Day Like This” (from The Seldom Seen Kid) or “Grace Under Pressure” (from Cast of Thousands), and a song that will surely be swirling around the rafters of arenas on their forthcoming tour. Elbow: more power to them.

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