I’ve done a bit of soul searching recently, a bit of contemplating on the deeper things in life, and it’s made me face up to some cold hard facts. Of course, as a shameless blogger, I feel compelled to share these thoughts with you, dear reader. Namely:
1. The no-panty-line panty is pure myth.
2. I curse Man United but I have impure thoughts about Dimitar Berbatov.
3. Elbow’s latest album is nowhere near as good as their last one.
There, I’ve said it.
Back in 2009, Elbow released a piece of pop perfection called The Seldom Seen Kid. And for the last two years it has easily been at the top of my most played list. Even now I reckon I listen to the gorgeous, evocative “Bones of You” at least three times a week. Prior to Seldom Seen…, I’d never heard of Elbow, even though they’d been kicking around the UK music scene for several years. Seldom Seen… changed all that, and deservedly so. They won awards and ended up on lots of year-end Best Of lists. “One Day Like This” was the big single, while the bite of “Grounds for Divorce” got lots of play on TV shows. I preferred the beauty and romance of “Mirrorball”. With lyrics like “We kissed like we invented it”, how could you go wrong? Elbow’s Brit pop was smart but fearlessly emotional. I loved these guys and was so pleased to see them enjoying success. So how excited was I when I heard they had a new album out as well as a slot opening for U2 this summer. I picked up the latest release, Build A Rocket Boys!, enthusiastically slipped it in to the car stereo, and readied for greatness to blast out of the speakers.
Then how totally disappointed I was to hear they’d made a noodle-y, meandering, experimental record. Ugh! Is it too much to ask to write a song I can sing to? I’m not talking “The Bones of You: The Sequel” (even though I’d love that), but come on! Yes, you can hear a lush, not-quite orchestral sound on the last album, but Jeez-Louise, with Build a Rocket… you’ve now got a full orchestra, a spoken word reprise and a youth choir! A youth choir?!? Did all that success go to your head? Too much pot in the studio? I’m wondering what happened to your straight-ahead cords and pop sensibilities, now given over for a go at out-radioheading Radiohead. Or maybe they were trying for a Tears for Fears-inspired sort of choral-group does melancholic introspection set to a grand synthesized heaviness. I’m drowning under the weight of their ambitions while they seem to be mocking me, “Radio-schmadio rockmom, we’re more interested in how this will sound in the Royal Albert Hall with a 60–piece orchestra.”
When the first cut, “The Birds”, clocks in at 8:04 you know you’re in for some serious musical ramblings. Time it’s time! It’s the second coming of Talk Talk! (whom I love by the way, but I’m not the moody teen I once was).
Having said that, there are a few gems to be found amidst the burdens these boys are carrying around, and yes I will listen to it, though not nearly as much as Seldom Seen…. I’m finding that most of the tracks, such as “Lippy Kids”, “The River” and the aforementioned “The Birds”, take time to reveal themselves, while a couple – “Dear Friends” in particular – are pleasures straight out of the box. Guy Garvey’s lyrics continue to unspool like poetry from a hopeless romantic. Past love(s) figure heavily again making me wonder who is Guy’s ‘freshly painted angel walking on walls, stealing booze and hour long hungry kisses’. She has been immortalized. If only!
As I listen to Elbow’s modern soundtrack for the moody teen, I’m thinking: either Elbow’s latest is an ambitious shot in to the pop darkness or a self-indulgent piece of rock star dress-up. You know, how many auteurs does it take to screw up a good thing? On the other hand, as I listen to Guy’s husky voice and lovelorn fearlessness, it does make me wonder: does Dimitar ever write poetry?