ELBOW – Build A Rocket Boys! (Fiction)

Elbow’s sudden rise to the mainstream following 2008’s Mercury Prize-winning ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ has put a lot of pressure on the band to produce a worthy follow-up. The last thing they want is for people to think that that album was a flash in the pan, but long-time fans like myself already know that ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ was actually of a standard that we had come to expect from the band. Therefore, I had no qualms at all about getting this album unheard, and it has proved to be another superb release from the band. ‘The Bird’s opens proceeding with just a gentle beat and Garvey’s expressive vocals, gradually building until after about five minutes the rest of the band decide to make an appearance. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the album, and I just knew that it was going to be another winner. ‘Lippy Kids’ is another slow-building piece about the brevity of childhood, and once again the band make a late appearance, giving the song an extra poignancy by being so under-produced. ‘With Love’ is the first mid-paced song of the album, and the odd massed voices of the chorus (I would hesitate to call it a choir) might sound a bit strange at first, but all hail to the band for experimenting. ‘Jesus Is A Rochdale Girl’ was apparently the first song written for this disc, and greatly influenced the direction that the rest of the songs eventually took, with themes of looking back and the significance of memories running through all the songs. The track itself is almost a Garvey solo piece, with just the barest of instrumentation to underpin the vocals, but if any band can pull off something like this then it is Elbow. ‘High Ideals’ is the first time that the band really pick up the pace, but even then it is not a four to the floor rocker – more of a leisurely stroll, with some interesting rhythms working their way through the song. ‘Open Arms’ will be this album’s ‘One Day Like This’, being an anthemic crowd-pleaser which is sure to get the lighters aloft (or is it mobile phone backlights now?) at the festivals. It certainly can’t have done them any harm at all performing this on Comic Relief either, and if, for some people, it was their first taste of the band then they couldn’t have picked a better introduction. ‘The Birds (Reprise)’ has a guest vocal from John Moseley, a 68 year old Manchester piano tuner and actor, who does sound remarkably like what I would expect Garvey to sound like in thirty years time. The album closes with the gorgeous ‘Dear Friends’, and rounds off another outstanding release from the band. They seem to have pulled things back a bit on this one, and gone down a more acoustic route, but the magnificent song-writing is still fully in evidence, and I am sure that fans who picked up on them after ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ will be just as impressed as I am.

   Jesus Is A Rochdale Girl