Wednesday 25 April 2018

Music: Build a rocket boys! by Elbow ****


John Meagher

John Meagher

The Mercury Music Prize has thrown up several dubious winners in its 20-odd years, but nobody was more deserving of the accolade than Elbow, honoured for their 2008 album, The Seldom Seen Kid. Here was a band who had toiled in the margins for years and released three fine albums before their fourth achieved widespread appeal.

Now, for the first time, the Guy Garvey-led quintet face mass scrutiny. Might there be another One Day Like This to snare those still oblivious to their charms? Or will they return to their less-showy roots?

The answer lies somewhere in the middle. There's a sparseness to many of the songs that's quite at odds after the orchestral flourish of ... Kid, and there's a greater sense of introspection, too.

Garvey has returned to live in his home town of Bury (near Manchester) and, much like Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, this is an album about looking back at the years from childhood to adulthood. This it does elliptically rather than the prosaic approach that a lesser band would take, and the result is a batch of supremely well-honed songs,

Garvey is not a writer prone to sentimentality, but he casts an avuncular eye over his cast of characters. In Jesus is a Rochdale Girl, he finds wonder in the commonplace, while Lippy Kids paints a sympathetic picture of the ASBO generation.

Quietly, but assuredly, the songs celebrate ordinary lives and find beauty in the most unlikely of places. And in a pair of tracks, With Love and Open Arms, Elbow ensure that this year's festivals will not be short of communal, hymnal moments.

Burn it: Jesus is a Rochdale Girl; Open Arms; With Love

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