Posts Tagged ‘Guy Garvey’

Elbow’s Best Of: Reviewed

 

fallenangel1n

When a band releases a Best Of it’s easy to be cool and write it off as a cash grab, the band in question might have split up, might be going on an indefinite hiatus, might be at the end of their contract, there’s lots of reasons for them in fairness. For a long time I didn’t get Elbow’s Best Of, that’s not be being cool by the way, it just passed me by. I’ve spent the best part of a month with it and I really really didn’t want to like it but I’m here to tell you the boys have done well with it. I wanted to be all yeah well buy the albums, scoff scoff scoff, they’ve missed off such and such well this isn’t for the Day One crowd is it scoff scoff… but it is. This isn’t the end of their story, but this collection works as the end of a phase – I don’t even want to say Phase One because at over twenty five years thats some first chapter. Whatever you call it, from Asleep to Little Fictions it’s been a journey; they were some way down the road before the world seemed to wake up to them after all, and the journey is told in this collection.

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Approaching Home

Home is where the start is for Elbow, on Leaders of the Free World.

piccadilly

When you’ve written about wanting to get somewhere and you’ve written about what you feel like when you’ve got there, you’ve got to find your way home. Elbow do this with a stomp and a wink with Leaders of the Free World (2005). Whereas they certainly needed grace under pressure to complete Cast of Thousands, the band had learnt that the right approach this time was to capture ideas as and when they happened on the road, whenever and wherever inspiration hit them.

The band manage to channel the ideas into a collection that has a very developed sense of place and environment, this is very clear in the opening track. Station Approach is about coming home to Manchester (station approach, Piccadilly station) and literally knowing the area well and being at home. The listener is not excluded if they happen not to live in this city, because Guy Garvey’s lyrics can apply to anyone wherever they are listening. Three albums’ in, the universal intimacy is something they have perfected.

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The second string to the Elbow came in 2003. Two years on from that second first album and with more than a few people looking in their direction to see what was going to come next from this band; Elbow seem to deliver contrasts. They create a universal intimacy which is evident in spades on Cast of Thousands along with a feeling that now they are reaching an audience and they know it (quite literally when you remember that the crowd at their Glastonbury performance sings on Grace Under Pressure).

Ribcage opens the album and seems like Any Day Now, Chapter 2. The band have got out of town, on the road to where they want to be going and there is a great contrast that they “blew the doors, didn’t we? Pissed in their champagne…gave ourselves a name”.  You can’t blame Mr. Garvey and the other ‘elboys’ for showing some elation following some time wondering if their time in the spotlight was going to happen. “I wanted to explode, to pull my ribs apart and let the sun inside!”

They do that and then some. This track takes off with an almost hypnotic drumbeat, mantra-like repetition and a Gospel choir for good measure. The boys are nothing if not ballsy in working out what else they can add to a recording to give it the right feel. Gospel choir? Why not! Sing through a tambourine? Give it a go! But at the point where it is all getting big, we’re again pulled down to earth by the boys because while they “blew the doors”, they are still rooted in the everyday; Universal intimacy.

“We call that love, All you have is kisses and all I need is you.”

Fallen Angel is a stomp with interesting lyrics warning about things that are waiting to “bear their teeth for you” and a good guitar part. To me the song is about or to someone who is down on their luck and who is not quite seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Fear not though, reader and listener, for a ‘gee up’ comes in the form of song…

Drag your feathers ‘cross the dancefloor, throw your shapes  electric blue. Don’t fall to pieces on me.

We’ve all had those moments where we’re told to keep our head up, best foot forward n’all that, “choose your favourite shoes and keep your blues on cruise control”, tomorrow is another day. Paul McCartney said that when he found himself in times of trouble, Mother Mary came to him… this perhaps hits on the same vein but more to the point.

“…count back the weeks on worried fingers, virgin mother whats’erface”

Brilliant.

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Elbow’s music rolls like a Manchester Limousine. Beautiful on the surface yet intricate and clever if you care to look deeper. And if you do, well, the journey that you go on makes it all worth it.

A debut that is not an actual debut and an opening track titled Any Day Now. No-one can say that Elbow do not have a sense of humour. Asleep in the Back was re-released in deluxe form at the end of October this year and a fanfare is as deserved today as it was in 2001 when it was first released.

Asleep in the Back was on the Mercury Shortlist in 2001, but did not win. They would return to put this right with Seldom.

This was the second ‘debut’ that the band recorded, after previous material was scrapped when their record label dropped them. There was also an EP, Noisebox released in 1998 and 2000. This can be found for mega money on the internet, but handily is available in the new Deluxe Edition of the album, along with some live tracks from the Astoria and a BBC Radio One live set.

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