On one hand, Guy Garvey making a solo album isn’t exactly surprising. The Elbow frontman enjoys a much bigger profile than his more anonymous bandmates. Since 2009, he’s been busy with Finest Hour, his underrated weekly BBC 6 Music show, while more recently he has founded a record label, Snug Platters, and produced records for the likes of I Am Kloot. Other than that, he generally works on being Guy Garvey, poetic Mancunian, beer-fuelled bard and big softy.
That said, few will have seen solo debut ‘Courting The Squall’ coming. What can he achieve on his own that he can’t with Elbow, who are now six albums, millions of sales and 25 years in. But a move to answer that question is exactly what lead single ‘Angela’s Eyes’ sounds like. It smacks of a musician wanting to move a bit faster, free from the constraints a five-way consensus undoubtedly brings.
It starts with the rumble of a bass guitar, a shuffled drum pattern and some angular guitar stabs, before Garvey’s voice slides in, instantly familiar but somehow different. He’s not singing like he does with Elbow. Here, his phrasing is clipped, in keeping with the scuffed feel of the song. The lyrics are different too. Garvey’s not singing about love or friendship as he so often does. Lines like “And I’ve been looking for my truth since God was a boy” and “Tried faith and humanity, but it sure made a man of me” are shrouded in intrigue. All we find out is that he finds what he’s searching for in the titular Angela’s eyes. Is this autobiographical? If so, who’s Angela? And what’s so special about her eyes? Those questions go unanswered, but what this track does tell us is that Garvey’s first solo single is completely worthwhile.