For those with the slightest music history knowledge, Manchester is one English city that has produced a seemingly inordinate amount of music: the Buzzcocks, Joy Division, Happy Mondays, the Doves, etc.
Elbow is one such band. They went back to Manchester to record their self-produced fourth album, The Seldom Seen Kid. While they did the same with their previous album, the excellent Leaders of the Free World, this new one consolidates their strengths that much further.
Elbow is pretty much unknown in the states, but in Britain it’s exactly the opposite.
At the centerpiece is singer/songwriter Guy Garvey’s warm but gruff Chris Martin meets Peter Gabriel voice. His vocals and the band’s interplay make The Seldom Seen Kid unmistakable.
Yes, there are comparisons to both Coldplay (the piano on “Weather to Fly”), and Radiohead (The brooding opener, “Starlings”), but Elbow are much more than the sum of their parts.
If anything, they have a knack for taking recognizable styles, internalizing them,
and spitting them back out as their own. Songs on The Seldom Seen Kid that conjure up a lot of people. “The Bones of You,” with its vague Middle Eastern melody and extra percussion is Robert Plant. Especially with lyrics like “And I’m five years ago and 3,000 miles away.” But “Grounds for Divorce,” on the other hand, is a bluesy slow burner, while “Some Riot” is latter day Pink Floyd without the hammy melodrama.
If Elbow wears their influences on their sleeve, they never feel like they’re doing it deliberately. Which is why as an album, The Seldom Seen Kid works as well as it does from start to finish. And it is an album that should be listened to from start to finish.
While the overall tone is moody (in a good way), one majestic song toward the end does a complete 180. The first single, “One Day Like This,” floats along on a happy breeze of strings. Garvey’s naked emotion comes through in unselfconscious lyrics like “It’s looking like a beautiful day.” And then the second half of the song comes in and reminds you why its always awesome to repeat a simple rousing chorus for a couple of minutes. As the song builds and builds, the band sings in unison “So throw those curtains wide. One day like this a year’d see me right.”
And you can’t help but hope after this release, they get their Stateside due.
The Seldom Seen Kid comes out April 22nd on Fiction/Geffen.
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