Release Date: Apr 22, 2008
Record label: Fiction/Geffen
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
In a world where even the generally mediocre likes of Snow Patrol can have honest to goodness mainstream pop success, it seems peculiar that Elbow have never broken through beyond a devoted cult following. (Admittedly, the fact that their new labels, Polygram's alt rock imprint Fiction Records in the U. K.
What was the worst year in rock history? One contender is 1960, the middle of the dead zone between rock'n'roll's decline and the Beatles' rise. The late Tony Wilson always maintained it was 1975, telling interviewers that it was "almost impossible to remember how awful music was" in a year when the charts were variously topped by Billy Connolly, Telly Savalas and Typically Tropical's Barbados, the latter featuring the ever-delightful sound of white British session musicians doing here-come-de-Lilt-man West Indian accents. But has rock and pop music ever seemed so thoroughly knackered, so stumped for inspiration as it did in 2000? It was the zenith of nu-metal, adding to the gaiety of nations with its delectable cocktail of solipsistic angst and jokes about - ha ha - willies and doing poos.
As one of those who steadfastly avoided three albums’ worth of manly epic rock (file next to Coldplay and labelmates Snow Patrol), I was filled with about as much excitement as that dreary name at the prospect of reviewing Elbow’s fourth offering. All subtle harmonies and delicate drums, woozy album opener Starlings operates with such quiet intensity (in part down to the Turn Me Up™ dynamics) that it’ll suck in the most disinterested listener. The combo of ethereal prog rock and lead singer Guy Garvey’s hushed, careworn words couldn’t be finer than on mournful, horn-laden Weather To Fly, while sing-along stadium-ready cliché One Day Like This is the only discernible reminder of why I avoided them in the first place.