It was a very Elbow moment – I woke up this Boxing Day morning to the sun streaming through the window and the band’s new track, ‘Lippy Kids’, playing on my wife’s laptop in bed next to me. Good thing she wasn’t playing Motorhead’s ‘Killed By Death’, that would have really killed the moment.
What a gorgeous, subtle song ‘Lippy Kids’ is. Guy Garvey said a while back that Elbow’s forthcoming fifth album – their first since 2008’s ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ made them an unlikely arena band – was being written with larger venues in mind. He can’t have meant ‘Lippy Kids’, because it’s hardly the kind of anthem you’d punch the air to while scoffing a £7 Earl’s Court hotdog. In fact, it couldn’t be more understated.
No-one captures childhood nostalgia quite like Elbow. Garvey has an ability simultaneously to summon the carefree child’s thoughts and the reflective adult’s – he did it on ‘Scattered Black And Whites’ (off ‘Asleep In The Back’), and he’s done it again here.
It’s a classic Garvey lyric, using idiomatic English (has anyone ever used the phrase “simian stroll” in song before?) to find beauty in unremarkable everyday detail.
He’s watching these lippy kids on the street corner, larking about, walking on walls and stealing booze – but to him they’re not chavs or hoodies, they’re “freshly painted angels”. It’s an affectionate portrayal of Northern scallywags that never descends into Hovis ad schmaltz, or ‘Round Are Way’ geezerishness: an impressive lyrical feat.
That sense of restraint is mirrored by the music itself. The song resists the urge to swell to a roaring climax like, say, ‘Newborn’. It’s a mark of Elbow’s maturity as a band that they just let the song work its elegant magic, and then fade out.
It’s clearly a track that’s integral to the themes of the forthcoming record – ‘Lippy Kids’ was in fact originally the album’s working title, though it’s now been changed to ‘Build A Rocket Boys!’ – a line from the song. The album is out on March 7.