There was a time about 10 or 11 years ago where Elbow became almost a mainstream band, in the wake of the success of The Seldom Seen Kid album and its twin anthems Grounds For Divorce and One Day Like This. Since then they have put out albums at a steady rate but never quite hit the same heights as the aforementioned release. What’s not mentioned as much is how deft Elbow have always been with an understated, quieter song, right from Scattered Black and Whites on their debut album. This new album, recorded over lockdown, is an album full of quieter material.
The title track starts rather abruptly and is a moody, piano-led song with minimal percussion. The moodiness continues through After the Eclipse. They still have a way with a chorus – this one, where Guy Garvey sings “come out into the sun” is like a musical balm. The muted, lovely Is It A Bird gets a flourish provided by a saxophone of all things.
Those who love Elbow for the anthems will enjoy Six Words, an understated anthem, sure, but it does gently ignite halfway through, you will nod along. Guy Garvey has got quite the voice, and he sounds great throughout, particularly on the twinkly, immersive Come On, Blue. Warm guitar chords drive The Only Road, while later they throw back to their breakthrough album with a song entitled The Seldom Seen Kid. This is a slow, sad yet uplifting descent with some incredible musicianship.
So this is an Elbow for people who want to sit and contemplate, rather than punch the air gleefully. An Elbow for these times.
The Seldom Seen Kid