16 March 2014

Elbow - The Take Off & Landing Of Everything



I have not been that excited for this album; great way to start a blog Eddie, get them in at the beginning.  Let me explain, I am not the biggest fan of their last album 'Build A Rocket Boy!'.  Not that it was well played, they have rarely done an album which has been being good (if not long); but the last album was incredibly dull, well played but it had the task of following one of the weird beautiful/joyful/still a bit slow type of album in 'The Seldom Seen Kid'.  On that review I stated that they were the underdogs, but now they are big dogs, leaders and big marquee names which can sell out concert halls, arenas and other venues up and down this septic land we call England.  Yet they also sound as if they are still underdogs as well, it is almost of if they have looked at all the praise that has been lavished on them, the fact they have played at the Olympics, all over the world, had the sunset set of Glastonbury; yet they just continue as they do.  It must be a North West English thing.  They are also one of those bands who could not have came from any other part of the world; they sound as English as Social Distortion sound like Orange Country in America.  Now with one of the worst record covers I have seen in a long time (seriously, are you trying to sell to a black metal audience, they are such better images inside the album book), time for the review.

Starting off with "The Blue Room" which has an almost desert like vibe, it is mostly an organ sound, snare drum, the odd bass and guitar notes and Guy Chamber's haunting vocals with a tale of loss and love that is their hallmark.  We find the boys in their 40's, are in various state of maternal bliss, comings and goings, separations and other events; this song does reflect that change in their collective life’s' as it does not get big or ballsy (such as "Leaders Of The Free World" or "Grounds For Divorce"), it is gentle and also a long song; however it does not feel that long when you’re in the moment itself, it is only when you look back at the song that you release that 7 minutes of your life have been consumed by a very gentle and subtle opening track.  "Charge" is next with the groove that makes the world move subtlety and again it is all very minimal, not running and trying to keep up with the Jones's or Smith's of the world.  I can really see this lighting up one of their shows; it just feels a perfect part of their set without really trying.  Also it is the truest definition of the title grower that I have heard this year, it reveals its beauty in subsequent listens and is not an instant flash in the pan.  Next is "Fly Boy Blue/Lunette" which is a little bit more brash and loud, but the sound of regret cannot be mistaken from the band.  They are looking back here and some might be wishing the world was different for them in some aspects.  It is a strange English thing, making your lyrics like riddles of the Sphinx to be picked at.  It also does feel like two separate songs, especially around the 4 minute mark where there is a noticeable shift in music.

"New York Morning" is a tale about a trip Mr Chamber's had with his ex-girlfriend during the period before this album was made (corroding to interviews they separated during the making of this album).  With that information, it makes the song a little more regretful, sombre and sad in my mind eyes.  However, if you discard this information that it is a beautiful hymn to one of the biggest cities in the world; the only real problem is that it ends all of a sudden instead of a gentle fade into the next track which would have been better.  "Real Life (Angel)" is the half way point of this album, this is a song which is about the special person who is always just an inspiration to be around.  It is that type of song which Elbow really excel in, it has the points where the vocals soar, the band get slightly louder and the crowd will come back to them in harmony.  It is the highlight of the album and I am glad it is on here, this type of track was not exactly present on their last album and it was sorely missed; however this one is up there with "Leaders Of The Free World", "One Day Like This" and "Grounds For Divorce".  "Honey Sun" is next and it is a strange song in places by design.  The harmonies and slightly out to the music, there is an uneasy feeling of movement and being in a place where joy once rang, yet it is now a hallow shell of sorrow.  I cannot make myself comfortable with it, but that is something I don't mind; it happens all the time when I listen to Swans, I just did not expect to feel that when I was listening to Elbow. 

"My Sad Captains" is an ode to the drinking buddies of old and the changes of life and how time is merciless in movement and holds no ties in the forward movement it takes. With a strange keyboard start you feel like it is the morning after the party and that they are trying to piece together their last night.  It is slightly more fun than most of the album and a good rest to the sorrow (but you know that it is around the corner). "Colour Fields" is the shortest song on the album (most of them are five minutes plus), it is one of the faster songs on this album but don't expect to be doing a pogo in the field.  It is a heartbreaker disguised as a happy moment.  I cannot bring to mind another song that does this as effectively, it is truly different for what I had been expecting here.  "The Take Off And Landing Of Everything" is next, it is the second longest track (next to "The Blue Door"), starting with Arabic horns, distant drums, haunting guitars and the vocals of the wounded. Sounding like a twisted carnival, it takes its time to get going if I'm honest.  It is slightly sinister (which I guess is not the band's fault - I've been reading a lot of Neil Gaiman books and this could be the background music to a few scenes) and once it gets going, it is obviously why the band picked it to be the title track (although it is just shaded for me by "Real Life (Angel)".  Ending this album is "The Blanket Of Night" which feels like the song after the party has left, which is perfect after the title track.  It is a pray to the night and to be carried to the next morn, it is strange when the 80's synth comes in but the rest of the song more than makes up for this bizarre inclusion.

This album is very hallow in places, mournful to a decimal point, full of regret and joy in equal measure with that usual sense of melon collie that is Elbow's major playing card.  The end track does take off the edge of the album which is a vast improvement to their last effort.  Also it is too empty to be the album that is in everyone's car for the next year, it is too relaxing and sad in places for that.  But if I am honest, it was really good; not their best but it is a great record which will be one that grows over each listen.  Upon my first listen I was not overall impressed with it and it took a while, but it slowly and surely revealed its inner beauty slowly, piece by shattered piece.  I hope the next album is a little more like this, but with something else in the mix.  You could worry about people if they kept making albums like this....

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track - Real Life (Angel)

You can purchase the album from Spotify here

You can visit the Elbow website here

You can listen to the album on Deezer

Alternatively for people who use Spotify, here is a link for you

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