The Seldom Seen Kid

Established fans will be glad to hear Elbow’s sound further maturing; newcomers will hopefully realise that this particular seldom-seen-kid should definitely be heard.

It’s one of the great musical injustices of the 21st century that cult outfit Elbow still haven’t achieved the mainstream success they so patently deserve.

Although Guy Garvey and his band of un-merry Mancs have been critically acclaimed for their innovative musicianship and evocative lyrics (their 2001 debut, Asleep In The Back, was Mercury-nominated), and endorsed by such heavyweights as Bono, Cale, Stipe and Albarn, the record-buying public just haven’t bought into Elbow’s northern soul-searching. Tellingly, seven years after their debut, this fourth long-player is being released through their fourth major label.

So fourth time lucky? Hard to say – as per usual, they’re not exactly striving to sound commercial. Recorded in Salford’s Blueprint Studios and produced by the band’s keyboardist, Craig Potter, it’s very much an intimate, in-house affair (though ex-Longpig Richard Hawley contributes vocals and guitar to the hilarious gambling duet ‘The Fix’).

The mood is mostly slow and melancholic, but rarely morose. Garvey’s vocal style makes him sound like the love-larynx of Peter Gabriel and Stuart Staples, and he certainly has a wonderfully bittersweet way with words – “Monday is for drinking to the seldom seen kid/I’ve been working on a cocktail called grounds for divorce.”

Musically, it’s a fairly eclectic bag of tricks. There are frenzied blasts of orchestral blare, brass flourishes, hints of flamenco and electronica, and the occasional contribution from a choir, but nothing melodic enough to immediately hook an idle listener.

Established fans will be glad to hear Elbow’s sound further maturing. Newcomers will hopefully realise that this particular seldom-seen-kid should definitely be heard. But it may take several listens before it grows on you.

Key Track: ‘Mirrorball’

 

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