If you survived long enough in the harsh music business you eventually live long enough to see yourself becoming unique in some form. Good reputation, steady quality and a certain stubbornness can result in your own niche. SIGUR RÓS, MUSE and others are unique in their way, just because they stick to their ideals and always created music in the way they liked it. Manchester-based Brit Rockers ELBOW are such a phenomenon too. It took them over ten years to breakthrough in their home country but to achieve this they basically did nothing but continue making their own psychedelic and melancholic bluesy Britpop. They are bullheads and they managed to create their own musical microcosm over the past years.
Album Number six, The Take Off and Landing of Everything, is just a continuation of this. It’s the unstoppable tender evolution of ELBOW and their cranky alternative pop. In one way, the band around charismatic singer Guy Garvey has always been some sort of alternative draft to COLDPLAY and other stadium bands. They were always a bit scruffy, a bit less slick and a bit more edgy. As NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION pointed out in our recent ‘The List’ about the band – Guy Garvey always felt more like a lad you can meet at your local bar instead of a big stadium rock crooner. But in some way he is. And once again his beautiful voice is the lighthouse of these songs.
The Take Off and Landing of Everything continues the path Build a Rocket, Boys! in 2011 already took. ELBOW take their sound away from the dirty bars into a more symphonic surrounding. Even more strings and extended song structures dominate the album, pointing it into a more progressive direction. The tender opener This Blue World already hints that. Garvey gently welcomes us to a new day. ‘Was the universe in rehearsal for us?’ he asks in the course of this seven-minute-long song. One thing is quite quickly for sure - ELBOW really don’t care for conventional structures and radio-friendly hits anymore. Fly Boy Blue / Lunette actually consists of two contrary segments that in some way magically work together. The dirty and bluesy first part is followed by the gentle second part. ‘I still want a bottle of good Irish Whiskey’ claims Garvey, loading these words up with a great sense of romance.
There’s plenty of things to discover on The Take Off and Landing of Everything. The epic gospel of New York Morning is another typical ELBOW arena anthem in the style of One Day Like This or Open Arms, Real Life (Angel) celebrates new love with soulful strings over a tender beat as Garvey is singing: ‘In the arms of new love / the peace that you’ll feel is real life.’ And just when it gets a bit too much, Honey Sun slows down the pace.
‘I’m running out of miracles’ confesses the front man at the beginning of My Sad Captains. What a lie since this track marks one of the highlights of the record. A heart wrenching shanty; the band at the top of their game. You might argue that ELBOW tend to repeat themselves in their songs – but facing this beauty why would one even bother? The Brits mix ambition with talent and they managed to nearly perfect that balance. Sometimes, this might be a bit too much to take for the listener. The title track The Take Off and Landing of Everything is such an example where they overshot the mark. But this is just an exception on a really strong new record. Only a few bands these days are capable of delivering such high quality from album to album as these guys do. We clearly have no idea what to follow this? Time is on the side of ELBOW, the new album testifies their quality. This calls for another round at the bar…
On ‘The Take Off and Landing of Everything’ ELBOW continue their symphonic adventures, lifting their cranky ballads up into new creative and progressive heights.
NBHAP Rating: 4/5