Under Review: Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys!

Despite their awfully big sound, there’s something about Elbow’s music that will forever endear them to a relatively small audience. Guy Garvey’s yearning delivery of lovingly-crafted lyrics has always been more uplifting than exhilarating, and the band rarely kicks themselves into high gear. The group’s character, though, is very well-suited to this kind of subtlety, giving Elbow the freedom to explore all sorts of variations on their established themes. 2008’s The Seldom Seen Kid gave Elbow a taste of widespread acclaim, and the newly released Build A Rocket Boys!, offers a sophisticated and polished follow-up. Where The Seldom Seen Kid featured some driving hooks alongside the group’s trademark theatrical sprawl, Build A Rocket Boys! puts the focus more squarely on mood and atmosphere. “Lippy Kids” and “The Night Will Always Win” escalate gradually toward sweeping climaxes, while “The River” and the twinkling “Jesus Is A Rochdale Girl” present their charms in more brief arrangements.


It doesn’t seem like Elbow are shirking the obligation to deliver catchy rock songs on Build A Rocket Boys!. In fact, massive hooks might prove to be distracting to an album so intricate. Even Build A Rocket’s more lively numbers carry a somberness about them: “With Love” and “High Ideals” feature neighborhood choirs in their choruses, and when the groove does arrive in “Neat Little Rows,” it still leaves plenty of sonic space. For all of Elbow’s likeability, there’s something coyly demanding about Build A Rocket Boys!. The album takes time to ingest, something that other new albums wouldn’t dare require. Much like the titular project, listening to Build A Rocket Boys! is a process. From blueprint to liftoff, it’s a cooperative mission that, in this case, results in touching the stars before returning to the familiar comfort of home.

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~ by E. on March 7, 2011.

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