My stupid face….and Elbow

21 Mar

“I miss your stupid face, I miss your bad advice,” read the text that (almost) jolted me from the settee the other night.

Anyone who knows my wife will tell you she can be forthright, but this was random even by her standards. After a few seconds the penny dropped, I’d left my new Elbow CD in the car and she was quoting me a couplet from track six, “The Night Will Always Win”.

Apt I guess, as over a career stretching back 21 years, the Bury band have created a mini canon of back-chatted everyday poetry – sometimes of the lip-trembling variety (who could forget the “love you mate” refrain on “Friends of Ours” off last album ‘Seldom Seen Kid’?) and always heart on sleeve.

‘Build A Rocket Boys!’, released a fortnight ago, doesn’t disappoint with references to “finger rolls and folding chairs” (“Open Arms”) and “hour long” teenage “hungry kisses” (“Lippy Kids”). Although only a dozen or so listens old “Jesus Is A Rochdale Girl” is definitely a keeper – a cousin to “Scattered Black and Whites” off debut album ‘Asleep In The Back’.  Insistent acoustic guitar, restless organ and Guy Garvey’s vocals front of mix, it’s a moving musing on the simplicity and possibilities of teenage years – “a single yellow duvet, a single switch to flick, but a thousand boxes yet to tick”.

“Open Arms” is a string-flooded, sing-along anthem similar to “One Day Like This” on The Mercury Music Prize-winning ‘Seldom Seen Kid’; the anticipation of a prodigal’s return which prophesies a welcome home party so raucous the moon ends up “face down in a puddle”. Garvey himself is the wanderer in hushed finale “Dear Friends”, addressing the loved ones – “angels and drunks and maji” – who guide him home.

Four albums in, it feels like Elbow have distilled and bottled the essence of their song-writing on ‘Build a Rocket Boys!’ – subtle but direct, unpretentious, big-hearted. Although at times a bit too mid-paced, it’s not a bad thing that you can, more than ever, hear the influence of Garvey’s heroes Paul Buchanan (The Blue Nile) and Peter Gabriel (foretold by the band’s bare-bones “Mercy Street” cover last year).

An album that my wife actually turns up in the car has to have something about it. And this one definitely does – even if it has taken me two weeks to get around to reviewing it!

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One Response to “My stupid face….and Elbow”

  1. lisa March 22, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    But i do love ur stupid face 😉
    nice blog, and nice album too!

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