ELBOW – Leaders Of The Free World (V2)

A new album from Elbow is always an event to look forward to, and their third release does not disappoint. With both Coldplay and Doves making some of the best music of their careers over the past couple of years, Elbow have to pull out all the stops to keep up with their peers. Oddly enough, this album was originally going to be called ‘The Stops’, and pull them out they certainly have. As with Doves last album, some of these songs are eulogies to Guy Garvey’s hometown of Manchester, and so we get ‘Station Approach’ opening the album, with Garvey stepping off a train after Elbow’s last tour and returning home. First single ‘Forget Myself’ was a good sampler of the album – downbeat and atmospheric, but with the trademark catchy chorus. ‘The Stops’ is about the frustration of trying your best and getting nowhere, and the title track is one of their few political songs, attacking the leaders of the major powers. Musically this is one of the most powerful songs on the album, with the build-up of the chorus at the end harking back to last album’s ‘Grace Under Pressure’. ‘Mexican Standoff’ is a lyrically interesting track, depicting the awkward situation when you and your partner bump into their ex, and no-one want to open the conversation. One of the meatiest songs on here, and featuring the album’s lone guitar solo, it is classic Elbow. ‘Great Expectations’ is one of the highlights of the album, with its funereal pace and personal lyric coming together perfectly to evoke exactly the emotion the band aimed for. ‘Puncture Repair’ ends the album with a short piano/vocal number about a friend ‘who patched me up and sent me on my way’. Garvey’s lyrics can be a surreal as ever, but he can also conjure up an emotion with just a few words, and when blended together with fractured melodies and his world-weary vocals these songs can touch your heart. Although this is something of a slow burner, all the elements that make Elbow such a great band are there from the start, and just need to be teased out with repeated plays. Do so, and you will be heartily rewarded.