Music Reviews

posted: February 14, 2009


Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid The Seldom Seen Kid

Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid

Imagine Coldplay with a young Peter Gabriel as lead vocalist (and lyricist…thank God), and you might have a general idea of the Elbow sound.  Huge and melancholy, the sound of this Manchester-based band has always been balanced by epic silences, caused by equally epic sighs.  Their fourth album, The Seldom Seen Kid, introduces an element of playfulness that finally counters the regret, which makes this most satisfying and complex Elbow album yet.

For instance, “Grounds for Divorce” is marked by a blues stomp that’s equal parts Led Zeppelin and an Apache war dance.  “An Audience With the Pope” is slowly propelled by a cabaret-style piano that perfectly underlines the irony in such lines as “Sweet Jesus I’m on fire/She has the sweetest darkest side.”  With the hilariously sinister “The Fix Is In,” lead singer Guy Garvey sings a duet with Blur’s Richard Hawley in an arrangement that is imbued with the lust-filled fever of a long-lost Yma Camus song.

With these songs growing ever more complex, however, it’s becoming harder and harder to distinguish Elbow the band from a Guy Garvey solo effort, especially when the instrumentation is so downright lugubrious.  The musical whole that is created is obviously the priority here, but I wouldn’t mind if someone broke through the gloom and grabbed some attention.  It’s hard to complain, however, when the result is so ghostly and dramatic.  If you haven’t investigated Elbow yet, this is an excellent place to start (with their debut Asleep at the Wheel next on your list).

–Marc Phillips