Anyone displeased with the sunny disposition of Build A Rocket Boys! should be very satisfied with Elbow’s follow-up. Singer Guy Garvey apparently broke up with his longtime girlfriend while it was being made, but you don’t need to know that to note the present sense of loss throughout the album.
There’s a lot to admire: the production is perfect, for a start. The harmonies of ‘Real Life (Angel)’ and its repeated ‘angel’ lyric, coupled with a backing string section, are incredibly moving. ‘My Sad Captains’ is classic Elbow, a sea shanty elegy to fallen comrades that seems to describe life as “a perfect waste of time”.
What’s missing from this album, though, is Elbow’s past catharsis. There’s no emotional release here like on ‘Station Approach’ or ‘New Born’. On this album, melody is king. Apart from the debauched brass and woodwinds on ‘Fly Boy Blue/Lunette’ (the clear album highlight), the focus is always on Garvey’s voice, and it’s stuck on sadman mode.
Elbow fans will find a lot to love in this album, but a newcomer’s enjoyment relies on them loving Garvey’s voice. Otherwise the melancholia will get to them quickly.
The Take Off And Landing Of Everything is out now on Fiction/Universal