ELBOW – The Seldom Seen Kid (Fiction)

For me a new album by Elbow is always something of an event, and it has been far too long since their 2005’s ‘Leaders Of The Free World’. ‘Starlings’ shows straight away that the band are still not afraid to surprise, with the gentle, rumbling intro suddenly erupting in a cacophony of horns, and Guy Garvey’s stream of consciousness lyrics tumbling forth. The tune twists and turns, as do those on many of their best songs, and it takes just this one track to realise that this album is not going to disappoint. ‘The Bones Of You’ is another cracker, and ‘Mirrorball’ is a surprisingly straight-forward ballad for them, but still with an edge which elevates it above the run of the mill. ‘Grounds For Divorce’ was the first single, and what an absolutely superb song it is – the sight of Garvey banging out the rhythm on a piece of scrap metal on the Jonathan Ross show will stay with me for a long, long time (check out Youtube if you missed it). ‘Weather To Fly’ is another elegant melody wrapped around Garvey’s enigmatic lyrics, pointing the way to one of the most memorable tracks on the album, ‘The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver’. This is a loping beast of a song, with an impassioned vocal and suitably melodramatic performance by the band. Richard Hawley makes a guest appearance on ‘The Fix’, which is the lightest track on the album by far, but also the catchiest tune, and a hot contender for next single. The echo-laden piano intro and experimental guitars of ‘Some Riot’ give it a decidedly unsettling feel, but we are soon brought back to earth with the luscious ‘One Day Like This’, which has a tune to die for, some of the best use of a string section that I have heard for some time, and the sort of chorus that will be loved at the festivals. If I have just one criticism of this album it is that they should have ended it there, but there is one more track, and although ‘Friend Of Ours’ is a perfectly good song it does bring the album to a melancholy conclusion when it could have finished triumphantly. But that is just a very small niggle, and it does not detract from the fact that this has to be the band’s best work yet. If you aren’t already a fan of this consistently brilliant outfit then you really have no idea what you are missing out on.