A mature, moving and heartfelt album...
Laura Davies

10:46 8th March 2011

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How does a band cope with being thrown into the very public eye after the stratospheric success of a Mercury Prize winning record? Well if you’re Speech Debelle then you disappear of the face of the earth, but if you’re something special like Elbow, you come back with an even more mature, moving and heartfelt album.

Ending their three-year hiatus with opener ‘The Birds’, frontman Guy Garvey is his affecting and slow-burning self. Lyrics like “The Birds are the keepers of our secrets, as they saw us where we lay in the deepest grass of springtime” delivered in his calm northern tone prove the Mancunian five-piece aren’t veering too far of the path that led them to success. And why should they? They know a good thing when they create it.

On ‘Lippy Kids’, a track sticking up for today’s youth, Garvey’s soft vocals take on a choir boy innocence – if that’s possible of a 37-year-old shaggy bloke you’d be mates with over a pint in your local – while singing “build a rocket boys” over and over. ‘Neat Little Rows’ is an album highlight contender with its beautiful church bells and chorus building to an almost religious crescendo. The gusto is countered by the heart aching ‘Jesus is a Rochdale Girl’ as everyman Garvey sings: “I celebrate and mourn a single shining sister.” Elbow are proof that nice guys don’t always finish last.

The success the late-bloomers are now enjoying must have its drawbacks… namely arenas. A band that honed the delicate and honest to become a nation’s unlikely favourite, thanks to their fourth record ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ (that Mercury Prize winning album - in case you were living on another planet for the past three years) are built for intimate venues where you can glimmer the tears forming in many a grown man’s eye. 2008’s breakthrough single ‘Grounds for Divorce’ pleased the need for crunching tracks to fill bigger venues, but as the five best friends are soon to embark on their first arena tour, do they have any truly massive anthems?

Well, not really is the answer. ‘Neat Little Rows’ is the closest to a stadium pleaser, but that’s exactly why they’ve worked their everyman status to become the nation’s beloved. If we wanted predictable anthem after anthem we’d all be donating to the bank of Chris Martin. Elbow are honest, intricate and mellow. Mellow bordering on soft, bordering on heartbreaking, bordering on one of the best British bands around; bordering on genius.

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