A rare pleasure indeed...
Right, before we get started, could we all agree to forget a few things? 1) That you’ve ever seenElbow, lazily, bracketed with orthodox British guitar bands like Coldplay andTravis. 2) Elbow’s 2001 debut ‘Asleep In The Back’. If you hated it, that is. 3) The misleading idea that Elbow are, simply, gloomy miserablists.
Slate wiped clean? Good. Because, while NME is determined not to slip into hysterical hype, ‘Cast Of Thousands’ is very good. A classic, perhaps. Certainly, a record that anyone who’s ever demanded anything interesting from rock music should hear. Free of baggage, associations and past histories.
Like all great albums, even though it takes a few listens to truly appreciate what’s going on here, your journey of discovery is immediately dotted with signs that this is something special. The way, for instance, during lilting avant-rock opener ‘Ribcage’, Guy Garvey, singing about pulling his ribs apart to “let the sun inside”, is suddenly swept up in The London Community Gospel Choir, so that it really sounds like salvation.
Emotions, as you’d expect of Elbow, run high throughout. But, there’s no moping. Dulcet ballad ‘Switching Off’ (clever sonic pollution, Garvey at his yearning best) is, it seems, about assisted suicide. But, it’s a beautiful, tender thing, any grief born of tremendous love.
By the time we get to ‘Grace Under Pressure’, a towering rattle of tribal percussion, choral voices and last year’s Glastonbury crowd shouting, “We still believe in love, so fuck you”, (yep, sounds terrible, but trust us) Elbow are flying.
Wreathed in a kind of celestial soulfulness, awash with atmospheric sonic trickery and jazz/ psychedelic influences, ‘Cast…’ sounds, at times, like some dream collaboration between Spiritualized and [a][/a]. That it does all this whilst sounding human, ordinary almost, is Elbow’s genius. ‘Cast…’ may be serious, but it’s never self-important. And, for a prog-rock band, Elbow display great self-control.
Rock ‘n’ roll is very nearly at the end of its creative evolution. But, on ‘Cast…’, Elbow
transcend their influences to produce a virgin sound. A rare pleasure indeed.
Get ‘Cast of Thousands’ at the NME Shop