The love affair was off. ‘Build A Rocket Boys!’ was missing more than a comma in the final analysis. What initially seemed like a pleasing dose of more of the same gradually lost its potency until it all felt a bit samey. There were some fine songs on there but it just seemed to lollop along a bit. Where was the sonic variety of ‘Leaders Of The Free World’ and even ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’? It’s a beautiful record but not an exciting one. Not that this stopped me loving their past work and, just as I kept buying Ian McEwan novels even after he’d stunk up the world with ‘Solar’, I was still keen to give Elbow‘s sixth studio offering a listen, even with a due sense of trepidation. Thankfully, I was allocated it for review and so it became one of my ‘decorating the house’ albums when we moved back in February. With hours of mundane tasks requiring a soundtrack, it was a perfect platform for albums to become ingrained. That said, I didn’t take much convincing.
Having pushed the delicately uplifting envelope until it wilted under the pressure, Elbow rediscovered their sense of adventure on an album that arrived endearingly weathered and lacking the frustrating sheen on some of its predecessor. An electric organ dating back to the Sixties is peppered throughout songs adorned with Guy Garvey’s heart-rending storytelling and imbued with some of the jagged edges that retreated on their last two albums. Despite the familiarly grand approach of lead single ‘New York Morning’, ‘Charge’ spits out bitter loneliness to a tremendously awkward rhythm while ‘My Sad Captains’ may have displaced ‘Great Expectations’ as the most beautiful thing they have ever done. It’s a close call, but it was that song in particular that truly reassured me all was well. The slightly lumbering but resonant drum sound that is so very Elbow was back and as lovely as ever.
As well as possessing a more diverse sonic spectrum than they’d opted for in ten years, ‘The Take Off And Landing Of Everything’, the lyrics seemed to rise above the music once again. “I live and die by the hot and cold in strangers’ eyes” from ‘Honey Sun’ and the stream of consciousness drift that kicks off ‘Fly Boy Blue / Lunette’ are particular highlights, but there are gems dotted across these ten magical songs. The backlash is now fully underway, admittedly prompted by their pragmatic fifth, but don’t let it put you off this beautiful record. Whatever their current standing in the music industry, ‘Take Off…’ shows that what made Elbow great in the first place is still there to make them great once again.