March Reviews

Time to mop up my spillages in the review pages of Clash Magazine again. Two of these have already had the full works in recent weeks and another will be soaked in a torrent of hyperbole any day now, but I still rather like bunging these up here.

Elbow Build

ELBOW – ‘Build A Rocket Boys!’ (FICTION)

Safe in the knowledge than an audience awaits, Elbow’s fifth album finds the band doing exactly as they please. Combining the expanses of their debut, the delicate melody of ‘Leaders Of The Free World’ and the beautiful production of ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’, ‘Build A Rocket Boys!’ is a band in full flight. While its subtle charms take time to emerge, let ‘The Birds’ and ‘High Ideals’ take a few laps around your head and the love affair will be back on. Beautifully produced and blessed with Guy Garvey in fine voice, it’s a small but perfectly formed step forward.

I keep meaning to do a big piece on this album but I can’t imagine that anybody who likes Elbow hasn’t already bought it. It’s a gorgeous sounding record – an impression far further enhanced by the majestic double 45rpm vinyl pressing – and I stand by the comment about it needing time. My first few plays were actually slightly disappointing and I was left wondering where the majesty was. It is, rest assured, very much present but it really repays multiple plays and it’s every bit the tremendous follow up we all knew they’d deliver.

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The Just Played Verdict: Noah & The Whale ‘Last Night On Earth’

“It’s not like the last record…mumble, mumble. Where’s all the lovely folk music gone? Grumble, grumble. They’ve lost the innocence of their debut.” Get ready for the tidal wave of “what the fucks” which this album will surely provoke. However, before the braying masses are allowed to, yet again, sink an interesting and experimental release just because it doesn’t conform to their own peculiarly retrograde rules, let’s get two things clear. Firstly, the release of this record doesn’t automatically cause the previous two to spontaneously combust. Secondly, there is some wonderful songwriting on ‘Last Night On Earth’ which deserves to be heard.

Noah Whale

Having issued those caveats, I should confess that the first play of this record left me rather confused and actually wondering if I’d put the right album on. You’ll have heard ‘L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N’ by now and it is a reasonably fair representation of what album three has to offer. There is an air of polished power-pop atop many of the songs, but don’t be fooled into thinking that that means this is some soulless stab at stadium status. Take the spacious beats and swirling yet soothing synths which open ‘Wild Thing’. It slowly and delicately gathers pace and, whether it would sound out of place on Radio 2 or not, it’s still a beautiful song. It does contain one of those lyrics which continues to leave them open to allegations of being a little too clever-clever: “I used to be a citizen in this town till my teeth turned grey and my hair fell out,” but this is surely redeemed by the altogether more evocative “the night stars static in the winter breeze.”

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The Just Played Verdict: Banjo Or Freakout ‘Banjo Or Freakout’

Don’t be put off by the name. Let’s remember that one of the biggest releases to appear in the same week as this record is by a band called Elbow and remember not to judge. Not that the artist in question, Alessio Natalizia, wasn’t right to opt for a moniker which at least hinted at the sonic terrain found on his records.

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Gently lumbering into view, single ‘105’ provides a fitting opener. Less a wall of sound and more a plush curtain, it lulls you into an appropriate state for what follows. Distant, slight and yet endearingly melodic vocals whisper out from a beautifully constructed soundscape on ‘Go Ahead’, swathes of throbbing bass rising from behind a muted, mechanical drumbeat.

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