In my experience, if you like soft rock, you’ve either heard of Elbow and love them; or you haven’t heard of Elbow.
They, along with Radiohead & Ryan Adams, have probably written songs that I most wish I could lay claim to. You might have heard of Elbow if you followed the 2012 London Olympics, they did the theme tune but also a rendition of ‘One Day Like This’ in the closing ceremony (note if you haven’t heard the song, go and listen now). It’s a great ode to hangovers, love and positivity.
They’re also responsible for one of the live experiences I always recount to friends. They finished the first night at The Powerstation back in 2010 with One Day Like this, with the crowd singing acapella and doing about every harmony possible. The look of amazement on Guy Garvey’s face in the ability of the audience was priceless and a credit to all who were singing their lungs out! We went back the second night having had a thoroughly good evening. However it seems the band had a better following day: they appeared, how shall we put it politely, ‘a little jolly’ and told us they’d been treated to a day fishing on the Hauraki Gulf! It didn’t stop them having their obligatory pints and shots on stage together though and us all enjoying their music once again.
Their latest album offering is called ‘Little Fictions’ and from the cover seems to be a nod in the direction to fantasy fiction (another guilty pleasure of mine…), so it grabbed my attention. Immediately Guy Garvey’s voice is back, kicking in after 30 seconds and welcoming you back in. It’s like walking into your favourite pub and they see you and have your pint waiting for you by the time you get to the bar: it’s just comfortable.
So let’s get into the overview… The opening track Magnificent (she says) doesn’t disappoint and that old friend is back, soothing your ears with his laconic style. Later on there’s a track called All Disco, which I think probably sets up the premise for a number of songs on this album – although I wonder if it’s an internal joke given their last drummer just left the band… It’s an Urban Hymns-esque type song and as you come to expect has lovely harmonies and plenty of memorable lyrics such as “Perverted old timers, I’ll feed you one liners” (work that one out?) and “What does it prove if you die for a tune, it’s really all disco, everything”.
Seriously, anyone studying lyrics could do worse than studying Guy Garvey. He’s written some absolutely brilliant stuff, but also can just have fun like “Dickhead’s done a runner and he’s wondering if anyone cares” on K2. He moves back into more familiar territory on Montparnasse (which I thought was a made up word at first) with; “We’re all the hero when we’re directing the scene”.
There’s some overtones of U2 on Kindling and the disco theme is seen on Gentle Storm and as we move into Firebrand & Angel, it might just be because I’ve binge watched Westworld recently, but I feel like I’m back in that landscape. (Which as a sidenote is a fantastic TV show to watch…) We’re treated to another lyrical gem as well: “My best friend forgets all my stories and lies all my glories.”
I can take or leave tracks like Trust the Sun and K2 but like all Elbow songs, they probably will grow on me over time. Head for Supplies I at first thought was a song about logistics: I’m still not sure what it’s about. Sonically it lifts as you progress through it though even though it’s quite linear in its progressions.
Little Fictions is the title track and a great choice. Because what are songs? Captured emotions that take us on a journey. Although the song doesn’t immediately grab me, I think this will be epic live and some great emotion coming through from Guy in the lyrical delivery.
To round out the album we have Kindling which I mentioned earlier for it’s U2’ish feel that takes me a bit to ‘All I want is You’. It’s got a great ending that gives a bit of an insight perhaps into some of their writing – particularly around loops.
So all in all for me it’s about a 3.75 out of 5 for me. There are tracks on it that I’ll grow to love and others that I doubt I’ll listen to that much. The album is a great musical journey and I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t heard Elbow before to listen to Little Fictions, but also The Seldom Seen Kid, Build A Rocket Boys and Cast of Thousands. As always make sure you have a damn good pair of headphones, a cold beverage and treat yourself to some time off from life.