Elbow are icons of their genre. They’re recognised globally for their contribution to modern alternative rock, but especially so in the UK where their often sombre tones serve a steady and perfect soundtrack to the bleakness of northern England. So as I sit here listening to their new release The Take Off And Landing Of Everything and await a call from keyboardist and producer Craig Potter, I’m starting to worry that I’m a little out of my depth.
When the phone finally does ring he tells me I’ve caught him right after doing the dishes or packing the children’s lunches or some other similarly mundane domestic duty. I’d feel a little more comfortable talking to someone else who doesn’t know how to properly tie a bin bag than I would an icon of British music, but Potter seems like he ticks both boxes.
The Take Off And Landing Of Everything is Elbow’s sixth studio release in their 20-year career and marks a shift in the band’s approach to songwriting. “We have tried to split the group dynamic up a little bit,” says Potter from his home in north Manchester. “We had one member take a day off on a different day each week, which meant that different groups work together that may not have done so [before]. We specifically wanted to mix it up in that way. We’ve also been working a lot more from home – there’s a song on the album that I wrote almost all of the music to and the same goes for Pete [Turner, bass] on another song and Mark [Potter, guitar] on another song, which is something we wouldn’t ordinarily do.”
The Take Off And Landing Of Everything seems to be such an appropriate album for Elbow to release at this point in time – not because of the nature of the contemporary musical landscape, but for themselves as individuals and as a band. It’s rather sparse and mature in its sound. Potter explains that it’s at least in part to do with growing older.
“It definitely changes the older you get, with respect to lyrical content and subject matter. A lot of it’s linked to approaching 40. This age is sort of about looking forward and looking back at the same time”.
Despite their growth, The Take Off And Landing Of Everything remains unmistakably Elbow. It’s epic at points but quite hollow and loose at others. The arrangement of sound is almost orchestral in certain instances on the record, and it’s all fronted by lyrics full of substance and full of worry, as fans have come to expect from the band. Few bands can mimic real life so well in their sound. And though the subject matter of Elbow’s music changes as they’ve aged, Potter says the band isn’t concerned with keeping up with musical fashion or style.
“I think if you worry too much about being relevant then you tend to go down some wrong roads. It’s got to be sincere and it’s got to be all about the sound. We don’t think that if we’re hearing a lot of a particular sound then we should go for that. I think it’s a risky way to work.”
The Take Off And Landing Of Everything out now through Fiction/Universal.