Elbow, The Seldom Seem Kid (Polydor, 2008)

Elbow are a band from Manchester, England consisting of Guy Garvey (vocals), Mark Potter (guitars), Craig Potter (keyboards), Pete Turner (bass), and Richard Jupp (drums). They have played together since 1990 and released their first album in 2001. The Seldom Seen Kid, released in 2008, is their fourth outing.

You don't have to listen to Elbow for too long to realize that nearly everything revolves around Garvey's distinctive lyrics and voice. Garvey is one of the few people I'm aware of that can write and sing about love from a guy's perspective, and get it right. He also has a better poetic sense than most of his contemporaries, whether expressing romantic euphoria ("We took the town to town last night. We kissed like we invented it.") or the motivation behind taking that leap ("So in looking to stray from the line we decided instead we should pull at the thread that was stitching us into this tapestry vile and why wouldn't you try. Perfect weather to fly."). The songs are populated with compelling characters as well.  Some of these characters are light-hearted, like the two racetrack employees in "The Fix" who think they have the perfect, foolproof, get-rich-quick scheme.  Other times the story is darker; in "Some Riot," Garvey's protagonist laments the decline in his drug-addled friend.

Elbow's sound is fairly diverse, covering a broad range of moods, volumes, and tempos within the general context of pop and rock. The music, while immaculately arranged and produced, isn't quite as memorable as the words. Most of the arrangements aim for ambience, being light on distortion but heavy on reverb, and while the mood and tempo vary the style still comes across as a bit formulaic.  The band try to get ambitious on the penultimate song "One Day Like This," but the dragged out final chorus comes across like a futile attempt to re-create "Hey Jude."

All in all, though, The Seldom Seen Kid is a pretty solid record. Elbow come across as a promising and intriguing band with a very charismatic frontman, and I'd certainly recommend them to anybody looking for some literate music.  Elbow have a new record called Build a Rocket Boys that is already available for download and will be released on CD in April, so you can expect another review of their work very soon.

Overall grade: A-

reviewed by Scott

Elbow perform "Mirrorball" with the BBC Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios

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