3 February 2017
Elbow - Little Fictions
Elbow are a band that for such a long time seemed to be the best kept secret of the underground, they operated and released their best albums when the world (and I include myself here) were either uninterested, were too focused on the next big thing (Frank Zappa in my case) or just were not into it. Then came 'The Seldom Seen Kid' (our review linked here), the Mercury Music prize and bigger tours, pressures and to be honest, a couple of releases that did not live up to the expectation placed on them (although I do love 'The Take Off & Landing of Everything' (our review linked here). It might have been outside forces that did not help, it might be that the music did not quite mix as well as their earlier releases or that they needed a little bit of a break after all that work. But after a small break and some solo releases, the band have returned with their seventh studio album 'Little Fictions', an album that has a cover that would have been perfect for our cover roulette series. But as with every Elbow album, rightly or wrongly these days, there is a little bit of pressure on these releases and that is not fair to be honest. But this is the reality that this album has been produced in, so how has it turned out?
01 - Magnificent (She Says)
With screaming guitars and lyrics about Satan......no, they do not start like that, that was just me being very silly indeed. The song seems to either be dealing with several possible relationship matters (fatherhood, new relationship, a change of location - the lyrics are really open ended to be honest). So, whilst those words are subject to interpretation, the music is not something that can be manipulation in such a way. It is a beautiful piece of gentle indie rock that is the band's calling card and it grabs the heart and takes it on a journey towards who knows where. It is big, expansive and it moves the soul to emotional levels; beautiful from the beginning.
02 - Gentle Storm
One thing that has been an issue with Elbow at times (for me at times) is that they seem intent on keep energy out of the song and it can sometimes hurt the mood of the album. 'Gentle Storm' is a song that has energetic percussion and drumming, but the rest of the music is slow and enriching in a bizarre mix of style that works for me. It feels like the start of a relationship, the drums representing the adrenaline and fast beating heart, the rest of the music being the attempt to be restrained in a way and the lyrics being somewhere in the middle. In two songs, the band have taken what they tried in the last two albums and created a glorious opening section to this album.
03 - Trust The Sun
Sometimes we find that the old habits are not the ones that matter anymore, sometimes changes have affected us to such an extent that they make our past times change. This is a song about being away from a loved one and the old haunts of the road no longer help or comfort when home is now a person and not a place, I cannot say it is something that I do not understand as I find that sometimes I need to be home more than anything else and this song sings that message clearly. The music is melodic and held back, but it is such a gentle force that it can demolish a mountain with its message.
04 - All Disco
Influenced by an interview that Guy Chambers did with the legend that is Black Francis/Frank Black from the Pixies, in which he uttered the immortal lines "You have punk rock, you have rock, you have blues, you have soul – it’s all disco" which is probably the best answer to the question "All these different styles of music, where are you going next?" ever committed to audio/paper. The song is about how everything is in flux and that obsessions are sometimes just fake smoke and that there are other things in the world that need attention. It is a beautiful number, it has the raised vocals that make the spine tingle, the gentle music and it makes the world feels better for making everything relevant and helps the woes loosen when it is needed.
05 - Head for Supplies
For the next song, the gentle power of the band is in full effect as they talk about companionship and warmth, it is a beautiful song to hear and it makes the world feel brighter to be honest. The band are quiet on this one, the music does not need too much power to be felt and that is a hard act to pull off to be honest. I love what they are doing here, the relationship is starting and there is hope and joy; it is lovely to hear a positive voice to the music for a change and I think that is what is winning it for me on this record so far.
06 - Firebrand & Angel
Not everything on this album is positive and light, to be honest I would have probably been a little worried if it was all sunshine and rainbows. This song feels as if there is still something about being picked as second best by someone that makes the world darker and cheaper for those involved, something that hurts the soul a little to be honest. But the song itself feels very cathartic to be honest, like it is releasing a long-held belief and giving it to the wind as it no longer needs to be held. The music is strong and powerful for the band, definitely one that will make a lot of people's must heard tunes of the year.
07 - K2
A song that deals with the fears of a new found fatherhood who is stuck in the crisis of Brexit, the national press and the world being a shower of shite to be honest, it is a song that is based in fear and it makes the world feel as if the flux is creating more obstacles than are really required at that point, but the world has never been kind if we are honest. It is a decent song that never really gets out of the traps for me, but it is not the worst I have heard from Elbow to be honest.
08 - Montparnasse
A brief interlude which is piano heavy, mixing many metaphors and keeping it very simple. It is short and sweet with a loving heart. I think it one of their more tender moments and it is best that it is kept short, much like this review of the song - beautiful.
09 - Little Fictions
The penultimate song, the title track and the longest track of the album all in one easy to tick ball, but it is not an easy track for some people. A song about finding love and trying to keep the small things special and safe, it has many verses, musical passages and more emotional baggage than you will find in your average night out in a city centre of your choice. I love the work that has went into the song, it is a gentle and strong piece that makes a strong impression on me as a listener. But it is one that could have been done in about six minutes or so and it does linger that little too long for me; but with that said I cannot say it is not a beautiful song either, just one in need of a tiny, tiny edit.
10 - Kindling
Ending this album is a song about enforced separation and longing, it keeps everything incredibly simple and loving as the band guide you home with a luscious helping of strings, gentle music and heartfelt vocals. I love the effort of the song, the commitment to the ideal and the performance behind it; it feels like a coda at this point, but it is a perfect four minutes plus of love and goodbye for now - best way to end an album as the song sort of falls apart a bit towards the end and the restraints are let loose.
I think that on this album that the band have finally laid to rest the ghosts of their previous albums, especially 'The Seldom Seen Kid' which is a good thing. They have not messed with the formula that they have created and it feels that the band are in a better place. As I said in my review of 'The Taking Off...' I was hoping that their next album was similar but with something more. I did not get the same album, but I did get the extra something that was missing. I think this may be their best work to date, it sounds special and it works on so many levels; not going to lie, it needed one track editing and one track did not work (hence the mark), but overall it is as good as Elbow get for me.
9 out of ten - Almost Perfect, almost......
Top song - Head for Supplies
You can purchase Little Fictions on Amazon here.
You can visit the Elbow website here (which has links to various webstore where you can purchase Little Fictions).
You can follow the activities of Elbow on Facebook here.
You can stream Little Fictions on Spotify here.
You can stream Little Fictions on Deezer here.
You can stream Little Fictions on Tidal here.
- Less Than Jake - Sound The Alarm EP
- Frontier Ruckus - Enter The Kingdom
- Fret! - Through The Wound The Light Comes In
- The Orwells - Terrible Human Beings
- Ephemerald - I Bear Fire
- Ty Segall - Ty Segall (2017)
- A New Nowhere - You And Me
- Courtney Marie Andrews - Honest Life
- Television - Marquee Moon
- Various Artist - Trainspotting 2 OST
- The Rolling Stones - Blue and Lonesome
- Elbow - Little Fictions
- Lower Than Atlantis - Safe In Sound
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